Within the space of a single generation, office workers have experienced a fundamental shift in how they manage their day. E-mail has turned correspondence from a task conducted to the beat of the mailroom into an unpredictable all-day activity—and turned us all into chronic multitaskers. Our communal attention deficit disorder has been heightened with the advent of mobile devices. Suddenly anyone, anywhere, at any time can feel compelled to be at work, perhaps for just a few minutes.
This interruption-driven style of working has rendered obsolete the simple time sheets many engineers once used to record time devoted to different projects. And even those of us who don’t bill by the hour can benefit from monitoring how we spend our days, if only to see what all those little tasks we’re expected to do in our spare moments add up to. Here are some examples of apps that let users track their hours or minutes with the tap of a finger.
Designed for the iPhone, DueTime (iOS, Lite version, free; full version, US $2) has a no-frills interface befitting the limited screen real estate, but it’s full of nice features, such as the option to have your records rounded off to the nearest 5,10, or 15 minutes. You can manage multiple projects separately (with different hourly pay rates, for example); you can then track individual tasks within a project, breaking out how much time is spent researching, traveling, e-mailing, and so on, for each.
TimeTag comes in both a mobile and desktop version (iOS, OS X, $4). Many time-tracking apps assume you’re doing only one thing at any given time, but TimeTag lets you have up to 20 timers running at once—handy if you’re, say, tracking your train or plane travel time for one project while doing some work in your seat for another.
TimeTracker HD (iOS, for iPad only, $7) is for more casual users—it’s intended for fairly large-grained activities such as “work,” “social,” and “sleep” rather than task-by-task breakdowns. And it doesn’t, for example, let you set hourly rates. But it does have a well-designed interface that includes bar- and pie-chart visualizations of your daily activities, so you can see just how a big a wedge of your day is spent exercising versus surfing the Web.