July 02, 2014, 6:00 AM — You might think that you’ve got a general idea of how you spend your time and effort at work, but tracking such things is usually more effort than it’s worth. With Toggl, they’ve reduced the friction to recording time so much that it’s barely any effort at all and you have a lot to gain.
Time tracking has been around of course. I’m not that old (maybe) and I remember punching in/out on a clock as a kid. The goal is the same, find out how much time each person spent working, usually to apply a fee or associate a cost. What knowledge you could gain from a punch card was limited however. You couldn’t know what tasks the worker was spending their time on, how much time was spent idle, and so forth. Today things are much more sophisticated and the amount of insight you can gain from time tracking, especially for a business, is worth the extra effort it takes to track your time.
Toggl is a web application which also has desktop and mobile counterparts. They all work together which helps you track more of your time than you normally would be able to. Start a timer on your desktop, it’s also running on your mobile app. Stop it on mobile, it stops on the desktop. Very helpful when you walk into a meeting.
Toggl allows you to create clients and projects for those clients. Further, with the pro version, you can create tasks under each project. For example:
-Client: ABC Corp
When you start tracking time you can quickly assign the time you’re about to spend to a Client-> Project-> Task all in a couple of keystrokes and a click. You can even type a description of the specific task in if you like.
Projects can be defined as Non-Billable or Billable. For billable hours, you can define an hourly rate to the project. By doing so, Toggl will automatically tally up the fees for you to bill which you can report on for any time period. You can also assign estimated hours to projects and tasks and Toggl will let you know how close you are to that estimate and when you’ve exceeded it. Toggl also integrates with Basecamp as well which is an added bonus if you use both systems, which we do.
Getting everyone on board and using Toggl is the tough part. It takes a bit of getting used to and initially there will be a lot of forgotten tracked time. Luckily Toggl lets you manually enter time as well. Once your entire team is tracking all of their time, you’ll start to gain valuable insight into your efforts through Toggl’s extensive reporting section.
We’ve taken our reporting a step further and we pull the time data into a spreadsheet that converts the time into actual cost based on salary, the cost based on our rates, and the project’s expected income to determine where we’ve over/under estimated our projects etc. It’s been eye opening and gives us a view into our business we previously were lacking.
At the same time, we’re careful to keep the time tracking goals focused on our clients and estimation accuracy and never about the productivity of our employees. While it could be used to track employee efficiency in some organizations, that’s not how our organization functions. Nobody wants to feel spied on.
Toggl has become an important part of our business intelligence. We’re a small company which makes it easier, but there are more companies out there our size (10 people or less) than there are larger ones. If you’d like to get better at estimating projects and optimize the time you spend working, Toggl is a great solution.