Time-Tracking Tools

As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, one of the bloggers/podcasters I follow is a woman named Laura Vanderkam, a speaker and writer whose area of expertise is the efficient use of time. She tracks her own time regularly, and every year she invites her readers to participate with her for one week. Last year I started to do it but quickly fell off the wagon, as I couldn’t figure out how to characterize time spent sitting at the table and talking to my husband while at the same time eating a meal.

But, later on, I gave her recommended time-tracking app, toggl, a try, and I found it to be a useful nudge in the ribs to be reminded that, hmmm, I had said I was writing a blog post but in reality I was reading a news article. Over the past month or so, though, I had fallen out of the habit of using it, mainly, I think, because of the onset of the holidays. This week is a good new beginning, since, hey, as an Obliger I don’t want to disappoint Laura! (Even though I did so last year–I’m sure she cried herself to sleep!)

Every week has 168 hours. So far, right at noon on the first day, I’ve spent time working on my Bible Study Fellowship questions, done my exercises, both the floor ones and my walk, taken a shower and done my hair and makeup, worked on cleanup, and done some food prep. That doesn’t seem like much for a whole morning, does it? I don’t know how women, especially women with children, ever get anything done at home. The plan for this afternoon is for me to work on my current sewing project while listening to my current audio book. I also need to use up the big bag of broccoli that I bought last week to make broccoli-cheese soup, which will be our dinner for tonight. Other plans have gotten in the way of my making the soup earlier, but I think the broccoli is still okay. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about the nice green beans I bought at Costco. I didn’t use all of them up for the Christmas green bean casserole, and today, when I took the rest of them out to use for a lunch salad, they were moldy. I didn’t know that green beans could even get moldy! I want to try, in the New Year, not to fit into the description that Peg Bracken gives in her The Compleat I Hate to Cook Book: “If you don’t happen to be [a vegetable lover], your solution is usually to throw out some old lettuce every couple of weeks (because you buy it even though you don’t each much of it, and it goes west with remarkable speed).” (26)  (The book link is an affiliate link.) I do like vegetables, honestly I do; it’s just that I’m lazy and overly ambitious at the same time. It’s all too easy to pick up that big bag of whatever (including lettuce), thinking that I’ll surely use it up, and then leave it in the crisper too long. It would help if I made meal plans for the week and then bought only what’s needed for said plans, but I’m not sure that’s in my DNA. I do find it immensely satisfying to know that I’ve used food wisely, though, so maybe I should give it a go.

Since I’m enrolled in the time-tracking week, and since I find Toggl to be such a fun little tool, I thought I’d share into about it with you, as well also including a couple of other productivity/planning tools that I’m (trying to) use. All of these have been mentioned before on this blog, but—news flash—it’s not enough to install the app or buy the planner. You have to actually use them. So it’s good for me to be reminded, and re-reminded, to do so. Here are the tools I plan to use this year, with links and how-to’s:

1. Toggl—I described this tool in this post, so I’d encourage you to read what I said there. (You’ll notice a reference to two other apps, SwipesApp and Evernote. I don’t use Swipes any more, but I do use Evernote, primarily for clipping web pages.) Here’s the short version: you go to the app store on your smartphone and download the free version; I’d advise putting the icon on your home screen. You’ll want to do the setup on your computer, though, as you’ll have more options. You set up categories (or “projects”) for time use, with the option of choosing a different color for each one. Any time you want to start a timer you just click on the green arrow and a timer will start counting up. You’ll be given a screen to fill in the “project” name and the “client” name, terms that apply to business use but are easily adaptable for personal use. So I use the “client” blank for the specific task. For this post, my project is “website” and my client is “blog post.” If you forget to reset the timer to the next task you can go back and change times. It’s very easy to use.

2. Todoist—I described this tool in this post, so, as above, you can go there to read what I said when I first tried it. I primarily use this tool for two things: a daily checklist of about ten things that I need to be reminded to do every day but tend to forget (so “shoulder rub by Jim” is on the list but not “flossing,” which I’ve pretty much formed the habit of doing) and shopping lists. As I mentioned in my previous post, though, it’s also a good way to keep track of random bits of information: books to read, programs to watch, etc. I enjoy swiping the items off my grocery list as I go through the store and doing the same with my checklist. I want to expand its use this year, especially in the area of using it for other checklists.

3. The Ultimate Weekly Planner—I wrote about this earlier, too, in response to a video about it on a newly-discovered website, A Slob Comes Clean. I really, really like the idea of a paper planner that I can use for long-range stuff. I’m still trying to get into the habit of using it, and right now I can’t find it! But it’s here somewhere. (The planner link is to the sponsored post on the ASCC website; I don’t know if the special offer is still available or not. You get several extra months in the planner, so even though we’re into January you’d still get more than a year’s worth of pages if you ordered it now.)

More to come on these tools as I struggle to incorporate them into my life. How about you? Do you have some ideas for items you can use in the never-ending quest for productivity?

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