Where does the time go?
Whether you’re a freelance professional juggling dozens of projects, a hardworking author trying to find time to write the Great American Novel, or just somebody with a busy schedule in a busy world, this question is probably on your mind a lot.
Life moves pretty fast these days—and if you want to make the most of your waking hours (and trust me, you do!) then you’ve got to find an accurate and efficient way to manage your time.
And since you can’t manage what you can’t measure, figuring out how to precisely track just how you spend your time is the key to boosting your productivity.
Some enterprising folks keep elaborate spreadsheets for each project they undertake, tracking their hours at each stage of completion. Some look at a clock or stopwatch to calculate their hours. Others just wing it and guess.
But folks, I’m here today to tell you that there’s a better way to keep track of your working hours. Like so many of mankind’s woes, technology has come to the rescue—and just in the nick of time.
8 Splendid Time-Tracking Tools
Time-tracking software is a fantastic way to chart just how long you spend on each of your many projects or tasks. These handy online tools are comprehensive, easy to use, and absolutely free—and we’ve rounded up 8 of the very best of ’em, just for you.
Editor’s Note: Each of these tools offers a “freemium” version that’s not a free trial or time-bound in any way, provides integration with other popular free tools, and offers mobile solutions in addition to desktop apps or browser-based use.
So, start your stopwatches… these are our top 8 online time-tracking programs for the modern professional.
AccountSite is a well-reviewed solution designed specifically for businesses, independent consultants, and freelancers, with offerings including time tracking, expense tracking, and invoicing software.
Users can track multiple projects through AccountSite, save their timesheets online, and even export them in bulk to Microsoft Excel for further analysis. And if you’re looking for a complex breakdown of just how you use your working hours, AccountSite’s powerful time reporting tools use a variety of filters to comb through your data as required.
Plus, if you’re the sort of person that forgets to start your stopwatch, AccountSite will even send you frequent messages reminding you to start your clock!
AccountSite’s systems are also notoriously user-friendly, and integrate smoothly with PayPal, QuickBooks, Microsoft Excel, and eSign Genie for when your customers need to e-sign something.
AccountSite is free to one user for two clients, two projects, and unlimited invoicing. For $10 per person for groups under five, AccountSite will handle unlimited projects and clients.
Due.com might be new on the scene—it was only founded in 2015—but it’s already proven itself to be an excellent timekeeping and invoicing system. If you’re a freelance professional with tons of projects on your docket, this just might be the solution for you.
Due.com lets users work on multiple projects, helping to track everything they do and filtering that information into custom invoices. The tool then offers quotes, estimates, and invoices that can be sent to clients via email.
While the paid version of Due.com is more robust, “freemium” users still enjoy access to all Due.com’s timekeeping features and tax structures for their invoices, as well as the freedom to work with multiple currencies. But users beware: Due.com is only free so long as you don’t process any payments through their embedded invoicing system.
Due.com integrates with Basecamp, and is free to all users unless you use their payment processing features. After that, the lowest processing fees start at 2.8%, with no monthly or annual fees.
MyHours is a sleek, bare-bones time-tracking experience you can use either on your browser or as a free iPhone or Android app. MyHours’s one-click timer lets you alternate between tasks on the fly—and, unlike many comparable online timekeepers, MyHours lets users track an unlimited number of tasks, projects, and clients with its free version.
MyHours also gives users the option to forgo using the integrated timer altogether and manually input time spent for each project after their completion. And through MyHours’s invoicing systems, you can mark projects and tasks as billable or non-billable and indicate a pay rate for each, then generate unique invoices with a choice of hourly, per-task, or per-person pay rates.
For further productivity analysis, MyHours can export PDF and Excel readouts of your timekeeping for later perusal. And for first-time users, MyHours will even import data, clients, and projects from other solutions with an easy-to-use import wizard.
MyHours is free for individuals, but costs $2 per month for each team member you add. Paid Pro plans (which are available as a free 30-day trial) start at $3 per month and include team management, budgeting, and invoicing for team leaders and members.
While most of the time-trackers on this list let users track their projects manually, RescueTime takes things a step further. Once you create your free account, RescueTime can run securely in the background of your computer or mobile device, discreetly monitoring and tracking how much time you spend on certain applications and websites.
RescueTime is the perfect asset for you attention span-challenged professionals out there: not only will its daily and weekly reports give you accurate reports of how you spend your time, RescueTime can log highlights for your daily accomplishments, send alerts to let you know how much time you’ve spent on a certain activity, and even block particularly distracting or troublesome websites—looking at you, Facebook.
Use RescueTime’s detailed daily reports and weekly email summaries to get a broad view of just where your time goes, and use this information to plan ahead and shore up inefficiencies in your schedule and work habits. Set daily goals for yourself on RescueTime’s dashboard and view your progress in your reports, then use your calculated Productivity Score as encouragement to keep up the good work.
RescueTime is free to all users, but paid users ($9 per month or $72 per year) get unlimited report histories, faster data processing, and more detailed reports and filters.
While Ronin’s free app works best for one person at a time—the solution only allows for two clients before upgrading to the paid version—its “freemium” version still offers a strong suite of solutions. If you’re a consultant, contractor, lawyer, or small business owner who doesn’t deal with many clients at once, Ronin just might be the timekeeper for you.
In its base form, Ronin provides a live timekeeping tool similar to other time-tracking solutions, as well as a project management tool, estimates, invoices, payment statuses, and Zapier integration.
If your business or your workload expands, upgrading Ronin will let you bring more staff, clients, payment integrations, and custom domains into the fold—but if you’re starting small, the free version should be more than capable of meeting your needs.
Ronin is free to individual users; upgrades start at $15 a month.
No, not TCK—but we’re flattered by the comparison.
If you’ve ever used a timer before, you’ll have no problems figuring out how to use Tick. And in addition to the usual suite of timekeeping and expense-tracking features, Tick will also automatically update users on budget changes with each new timecard.
That means that instead of budget tracking being handled by cumbersome spreadsheets, Tick will shoulder the burden of keeping everybody on a project up to date at all times.
Tick also has quite an enthusiastic fan base—more than 900 positive reviews!—and offers free integrations with solutions like Asana, Basecamp, FreshBooks, Quickbooks, and Zapier.
Tick is free to all users, with upgrades starting at $19 per month for ten simultaneous projects.
Toggl is a one-click timer that lets you manually track your hours, but the solution also offers a hands-free option similar to RescueTime. Use Toggl’s unique browser extensions to connect to more than 100 different web tools—and track your activity all across your web-surfing history.
And while the free version of Toggl won’t break projects down into tasks, it will integrate with an impressive array of other solutions and programs, including Asana, Basecamp, FreshBooks, Google Docs, Open Project, Slack, and Trello, among others.
Users can also manually input the time they spend offline and sync their data after it’s recorded.
And if you’re worried about losing your timesheets? Don’t be: Toggl backs up every 24 hours to several different physical locations, keeping all your timekeeping data secure.
Toggl is free to all users, but upgrades starting at $5 per month grant access to additional accounting features.
Not only is Trigger a wonderfully easy-to-use solution for time-tracking, its other systems make it a powerful alternative to solutions like Trello and Asana.
Trigger hosts a one-click time-tracking mechanism similar to MyHours or Toggl, and offers timesheets for projects, automated invoicing, and online reports. All of these sync with programs like Xero, FreshBooks, Slack, and Zapier—but that’s nothing that the other tools on this list can’t do just as well.
No, where Trigger stands above the rest is its free customer resource management (CRM) functionality. Using Trigger, you can examine each task you perform for your clients in close detail, tying your communications with each client to their related projects. This creates a comprehensive time report that allows you to decide which clients do the most for your business—and which ones you’re over-servicing.
In addition, the app also provides templates and storage for past projects and timesheets, so you or your project managers don’t need start over from scratch each time you begin a new project.
Trigger is free for up to three team members, five active projects, and five clients. Upgrades start at about $11 ($15 AU) per user, per month.
Juggling time tracking for all the many projects in your life doesn’t have to be difficult. And while any one of these fine time management systems could help you improve your process and productivity, none of these solutions are entirely alike—and choosing the program that best fits your needs will give you the edge in your professional and creative life.
I urge you to consider testing out at least a few of these online tools before deciding which one best suits your business model.
After all, each of these programs is absolutely free—experimenting won’t cost you a red cent.
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