Time Tracking for Technicians

time tracking

For thousands of years, we’ve been tracking time, for business or other purposes. The ancient Egyptians used shadow clocks. Sundials were popular for a while, but it’s difficult to carry one around with you. Now we have all manner of digital time tracking devices and utilities. As technicians, we need an accurate way to keep track of time spent on the job, and when you have many going at the same time, it can easily get away from you. You might find yourself trying to figure out how much time you spent on certain jobs at the end of the day so you can add it to your logs and in turn, convert those logs into invoices. There are a few handy tracking applications available on the web, but we’re going to focus on what will be especially useful for technicians and those in the computer technology industry.

Toggl

Toggl is described as ‘Insanely simple time tracking’ by the developers, and that’s a great description. It’s one of my favorite time tracking applications. I don’t want to spend 5 minutes creating a task and naming it before I can get started on the job, and that’s where Toggl shines. It’s a web app, so you can reach it from any browser, which means you can use it on the job from your smartphone as well. You can even start the timer and name the task later after the job, if you’re in a hurry. Initially, you open up the app, type in a short name for the job, and add a project name to put it under if you haven’t created one yet, and click ‘start’. When you’re done with the task, click stop, and it logs the time for you. You can even close the app while you’re working and just stop the timer later.

When you need to check on how many hours you spent on a task, you can open up Toggl, and choose ‘Reports’, which generates reports on how much time you worked on a project within a time period you specify. That means you can separate time spent monthly or weekly on any given task, as well as yearly. You can add clients, a maximum of 5 team members (on the free account service), and send weekly time reports to your email address. There is a paid service, which adds billing rates, tasks for more hierarchy, expanded team size, integration with Basecamp, Freshbooks, and other CRMs, as well as the ability to share reports with customers and colleagues, which is $5 per user, per month, which is very reasonable. They offer a 30 day trial if you want to check it out. All in all, a great time tracking application that I heartily recommend. You can even use the offline app called TogglDesktop which syncs your time logging with the online app when you get connectivity again, and it’s just as easy to use as the web app. However, if you need something a bit more complex, the next recommendation may be what you need.

Freshbooks

Freshbooks is more than just time tracking. It’s a full fledged invoicing, billing, and customer relations management application. If you already have your own CRM application set up, the free account Freshbooks offers will more than handle the time tracking side of operations. You can log tasks simply by entering hours, the project name, and the task name, or you can use the timer, which you can reach using any browser. One thing Freshbooks offers is the option to enter your time estimate for the task, so you can check back and see how you are doing versus your initial time estimate. For those of us who often underestimate the time needed for projects, this is something that can definitely help with our consciousness of how time passes on the job, and it can help balance us out in that regard.

Freshbooks also offers the option of turning the time tracking report into an invoice, which you can then send out to your clients, eliminating the need to switch from your time tracking application to your CRM for invoicing, and moving data back and forth from two different applications. If you need more than just simple time tracking, and would like a simple transference of logged hours to invoicing, check out Freshbooks.

RescueTime

RescueTime takes a more aggressive stance as far as time tracking goes, and technicians who also offer website design or other services that require sitting at a desk in front of a screen will appreciate what it does. It tracks time spent on your computer in each application. For instance, if you’re doing web design using Adobe software, it will track how long you were focused on that window, and if you took a break to check on Twitter or Facebook, that will show up in the reports as well. It’s geared more towards ‘rescuing’ your time by tracking it for you rather than requiring you to start and end a timer manually, which is useful if you often forget to start those timers when you start working. It’s a free application, and has a few limitations which are removed by using the ‘pro’ paid version, but the free version is more than enough to handle simple time tracking and reports. If you often find yourself drifting away from your focus on your work, I recommend checking RescueTime out. It may help you focus more on your work in the end, and help you keep better track of your time spent on each task.

Don’t Forget to Use it!

As with any application that automates or assists, it won’t do any good if you forget to use it. Remember to keep accurate records of your hours spent on any job, and it will keep the stress level down on the job, and help with accurate invoicing later. In fact, sometimes the client may request records of your logged hours on the job, especially if you freelance, and keeping a record using Freshbooks or Toggl will help out a lot. It takes less than a minute to log into Toggl and start the timer for the task at hand, whereas you could spend as much as 10 to 15 minutes trying to remember when you started or ended a job, or trying to figure out using phone records when you started consulting work or ended it. The often used phrase is ‘Time is money’, and if you under-report your time by accident, you’re losing money, so keeping good records is imperative.

Do you have a favorite time tracking application? Drop a comment below!



Micah Lahren

About the Author

Micah Lahren
More articles by me...
Micah has been involved in the computer tech and repair sector since 2000, although he's been tinkering with computers since he was 6, eventually turning it into a career. His experience covers a wide spectrum of the tech industry, including computer repair, front-end development, web design, web server administration, WIMAX networking and installation, and more.

Comments (14)

  • David Kane says:

    I use and recommend Timr. Available for iOS, Android and the Web. Time tracking, includes geolocation, reports, etc. there are paid accounts for tracking multiple categories, but for my needs the free service works great!

  • Henrik says:

    A great, free alternative for Android devices is Timesheet. It handles different hourly rates (overtime), expenses, mileage and much more.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.llamalab.timesheet.free

  • Derrick Wlodarz says:

    We’re using Podio for everything from work orders to project management to time tracking now. Plus the suite has mobile apps for Android/Iphone. Delegated tasks, etc. Very useful piece of cloud software. But great article!

  • Jim Ross says:

    I guess I just like it simple but what about just using your calendar on your smartphone? Works great for me and no extra software to mess with. I can hit my calendar from a PC or phone so it is always available. I’ve tried timekeeping apps but keep coming back to the trusty calendar.

  • Steve Creswell says:

    I use the Quickbooks timer on my laptop. Quickbooks costs a pretty penny but you can do your invoicing and pull in whatever timed charges you wish from the timer.

  • Matt D. says:

    I second the Android App TimeSheet. It backups up nightly to DropBox and the Widget is great. And free ain’t bad too!

  • Jim says:

    Links people! Links! Even the author of the article didn’t give any links. Now I know this is the age of Google and Bing, but if you think highly of an application you should be able to name the source of more information and a download link.

  • Mark Hirsch says:

    There’s a new type of time capture solution that needs to be considered. It’s all about *automatic* capture…and tagging…of how you spend your time. There’s no “Start” or “Stop” buttons…and no need to do anything else. You simply work…and your time is captured for you to clean-up and submit.

    (Full disclosure: I’m the CEO of CreativeWorx, the creator of TimeTracker) TimeTracker is a unique, patent-pending solution that automatically captures accurate time-related information and allows for easy adjust and submission to virtually any financial system. Designed by former Adobe employees, this solution works exceptionally well for Adobe Creative Suite users. http://www.creativeworx.com

  • Mainstay says:

    I like to keep accurate records of what I did on each job and how long I was there and write this information up into by billing software.

    So what I use is an audio recording App called ClearRecord and I make a quick recording like: “Sampson Automotive, 2:00 – 4:00 pm, setup new Parts computer and inventory system. Configured WAP, username = , password = . Also statically reserved new Ricoh printer at 10.0.1.50. Make a note, the boss’s laptop is running slow and will need cleaning and more RAM on our next visit.”

    I then email this off to my office assistant who then receives it as a simple wav file. She transcribes into our invoicing system for a complete record of our activities and makes any notes on the account. Any parts needed are added to our active order list. A lastly, she then invoices within the hour.

    The best part is that if there is every any dispute, we can pull up that recording which has a very raw record of what we did.

    I agree with Jim Ross, the calendar is the best approach for scheduling my day and tracking my activities. But for the details, I like audio recordings.

  • Emma Dcosta says:

    I would suggest the best tool for time tracking would definitely be Replicon’s hassle free cloud based time tracking software – http://www.replicon.com/time-tracking-softwares.aspx

    Its simply amazing with so many good features and usability with round the clock customer support.

  • Karin says:

    We have built http://www.timecockpit.com especially for technicians. Its data input forms are customizable with XML, the data model is extensible and you can automate tasks with IronPython. So you can build the perfect time tracking solution that exactly fits your needs.

  • Glanna says:

    Worksnaps (http://worksnaps.net/) is a unique service that tracks the project time of your team with verifiable work evidences. It helps you to improve the visibility and accountability of how time is spent. It is simple, automatic and effective. It is also integrated with popular SaaS project management applications like Freshbooks, Harvest, Basecamp,Huddle and many more.

  • Stuart says:

    I use Freshbooks for time tracking and Invoicing. Really simple web based tool that manages all my finances. Perfect solution for small Accounts. Android Time tracking App really good for time tracking

    https://digitwebdesign.freshbooks.com/refer/www

  • Martin says:

    I use this great time tracker called Worktimer. It is 100% free and is available as a web application as well as a synchronized desktop application. There’s no limit on the number of projects, categories and tasks you can add to your account. Every task you add can be timed using a simple Start/Pause time tracking system. When a timer is active it stands out so you can keep on top of multiple timers without having to check which ones are ticking. There is a complete reports package that comes standard with all user accounts that can be used to display all kinds of data ranges. After using WorkTimer’s time tracking facility there are various ways your data can be displayed for analysis. If a project has a billable hourly rate applied to it then an invoice generator option is available to generate accurate project invoices. Invoices can either be linked to using a public hash or downloaded as a PDF documents. The desktop application can be used to manage your account without a web browser. It is cross platform and is built using the Adobe Air framework.

    http://worktimer.co.uk/