My name is John Paul Manning and I’m an independent data analyst, which means I spend a lot of time working on my computer and it also means that I’m always struggling with fair billing. I’m contributing a favorite tool to shortcuts week because for me it has been a faster, easier, way to do project time tracking (and to stay on task).
Rad Resource – RescueTime (http://www.rescuetime.com/): RescueTime is a SAAS (software as a service) program that runs in the background on your computer and tracks what application or what internet site you are actively engaged with at any given time. It then creates reports that you can review (and if you have employees that you could review with your employees) regarding how one’s computer time is used. It comes in a solo lite version that is free and has met my needs, and a solo pro version for $6/month. Pro allows you to block out particular sites (no Facebook for instance) for a defined period of time to help you stay on task, and it keeps your history longer (lite stops at 2 months).
Lesson Learned – Tracking Helps with Project Planning: I always found it difficult to estimate how much time it really took to draft a report, or to complete an analysis, or to do background research. RescueTime gives me a much better idea of how I spend my time, even when I have to jump in and out of a project due to phone calls and meetings. Its time tracking isn’t perfect, but I’ve been surprised by how accurate it is. I’ve tried time tracking programs where I had to start and stop a timer when I was working on a project, and they just didn’t work well for me when multi-tasking (and I’d forget…).
Lesson Learned – Tracking Keeps you Focused: Just knowing that this is running in the background, and that I’m going to look at what I did at the end of the day, keeps me more on task. It not only is a subtle reminder for me not to go and check weather.com, but also not to flit so much from project to project. Sad but true.
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