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The Best Time Tracking Apps [& WHY You Need To Be Tracking Your Time]

by Chenell Tull | Updated: March 8, 2021

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Working as a solopreneur, freelancer, entrepreneur, or side hustler means you have to know where your time is going, period. This is especially important for service-based businesses, but all kinds of small business owners need help with time-tracking. 

You can use all types of tools to schedule your time, like calendar apps, a pen and paper, or even post-its – but how do you know what actually happened during your week? Can you categorize your calendar by client, project, or type of work?

That’s where time tracking comes in.

Productivity Benefits of Time Tracking

The act of logging your time can be so beneficial for personal time management it’s astounding. Have you ever tried to use a Pomodoro Timer? How much extra work did you get done?

If you haven’t tried this, I urge you to check it out and see what you can get accomplished.

Someone in my mastermind group the other day said she did 4 pomodoro’s (25 minute timed blocks of work) the other day, and she got more done in that time period than she usually does in an entire day.

How is that possible? For some people, when you’re under the clock (even if it’s one you set), you are much more conscious of distracting thoughts that come into play, and can even start to gamify your work (turning it into a game).

Even the act of tracking what you’re working on through a day can keep you aware of the projects and goals you have enough to actually get them done.

The Business Benefits of Time Tracking

One of the best things I did for my business was to start logging my time and seeing where it was all going. I started realizing that some of my clients who weren’t paying me as much were getting more of my time than those who were paying more. That didn’t sit right with me, so I started raising prices on some, and allocating more time to others.

business time tracking

But without tracking my time and what projects I was working on, it was all just a guess.

It’s like asking me how many calories I ate yesterday when I didn’t actually track what I was consuming. I wouldn’t even come close to being accurate – that’s probably why I haven’t been able to lose those extra pounds. 

The two apps that I currently use to track my time are Toggl and RescueTime, but there are tons of others that can help you do this. It all comes down to what kind of work you’re doing, how many people are on your team (if you have one), and of course personal preference and usability.

Some of the business benefits of time tracking that I have found are:

Last but not least:

Bloggers definitely have this problem too, which is why you’ll hear over and over and over again to make sure you treat your blog as a business. What better way to start doing that then by tracking your time?

All in all, it’s really eye-opening to just stick with tracking your time for a week or two and see what happens. Even if you hate it after that time period, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of what you worked on, what got done, and if you’re seriously undercharging your clients.

Best Time Tracking Apps, Tools, and Solutions

There are a ton of time tracking apps, but I wanted to share some great places to get started for you.

ClickUp

ClickUp is a task manager first, but they have a pretty cool time tracking tool you can use as well.

It’s setup as a Google Chrome browser extension, and you can choose which task you’re working on and then track how much time you’ve spent on that thing.

The chrome extension also allows you to screenshot you desktop, email, add notes, and create new tasks.

In your chrome extension bar you also see how much time you’ve spent on the task you’re working on, which is pretty helpful so you don’t have to open another screen to check that.

Top Pick
ClickUp™ | One app to replace them all

ClickUp in an incredible software that allows you to manage your projects, track your time, and essentially keep up with your entire life.

They have a free plan which is great for most people, but if you want to add more complex integrations and store more documents, you'll have to upgrade...but their plans start at $5 per month, so it's super accessible for most.

Harvest

harvest time tracking

Harvest was the first time tracking app I ever used. And it was only because I was in need of an invoicing system and Harvest just happened to track time as well.

Price: Free for time tracking, if you want to use their invoicing platform the paid version might be better for you. Starts at $12/mo.
Platform: 
Web, iPhone (iOS), and Android
Notable Integrations: 
Asana, Basecamp, Github, Slack, Quickbooks, Trello, Zapier, Xero

Harvest was a great place for me when I was just getting started with managing clients and invoicing. However, it’s just not as intuitive or easy to use as some others in my opinion.

It is more robust in the fact that they offer invoicing as well, but it’s just not as feature-rich as some of the other time tracking apps on this list.

If you are into using the invoicing portion of Harvest, here is an example of the layout of a sample invoice.

harvest app invoice

I also really like some of their invoice reporting, which shows month over month growth. As far as time tracking, it was just really boring – and if that’s what you’re looking for (which in all seriousness it could be), then go try it out!

RescueTime

RescueTime is more of a “passive” time tracking app. This will be great for those of you who know right off the bat you aren’t going to track your time religiously.

You essentially install it on your computer and it tracks every website you go to and categorizes your time into “Productive” vs “Distracted”. It sounds creepy because it’s tracking every website you visit, but it’s helpful for you to know how you’re REALLY spending your time.

Top Pick
RescueTime: Automatic Time-Tracking Software

I've been using this app for years and love the insights its provides. I can tell when I'm starting to "slip" and check social media or other leisure sites more frequently.

It also keeps me honest about how I'm spending my time. It's kind of like a calorie counter for your business.

Price: Free, but if you want more features – like blocking distracting websites – you can pay $9/mo.
Platform: 
Desktop – must be installed on your computer (PC/Mac/Linux)
Notable Integrations: 
None – this is more of a general tracker, not for specific clients

I use RescueTime in addition to Toggl because it tracks websites and applications on your computer that you are using.

Some of the sites you visit, like Facebook, YouTube, etc. CAN be productive if you’re running ads or engaging for business, but likely they are NOT productive.

I like the reporting feature of RescueTime because it will show me gaps of time where I’m getting caught up in a YouTube hole, or browsing Facebook for WAY too long.

Here is what the dashboard looks like, which can either make you feel really good, or like you don’t know what you’re doing with your life.

rescuetime dashboard

This next part breaks down each category of time you’ve spent over the time period selected:rescuetime activities

27.8 hours in Gmail? I clearly need a change in my routine :O

This last one is a DOOZY. No wonder I feel like I’m losing my eyesight…

rescuetime productivity

All of this data is awesome to be able to go back and look at. I’d definitely recommend installing RescueTime, because you don’t have to manage it at all, it’s just always open and captures how productive you are…. And after taking these screenshots to show you, I’m realizing I might need to make some changes.

This is not a great platform for tracking time working on clients, but is great to help you see if you’re being productive or not.

Hubstaff

This one works well for remote teams, but is also a great option for solopreneurs. I have only tested out the trial version of Hubstaff, but it is intuitive and manages a ton of data for your projects.

Price: Free for one user; $5/mo+ per user for more features
Platform: 
Desktop and mobile app
Notable Integrations: 
Quickbooks, Freshdesk, Paypal, Trello, Insightly, Asana, Zendesk, Wrike, Github, Salesforce

Hubstaff includes time tracking, invoicing, timesheets, app and URL tracking (to make sure your businesses employees aren’t on Facebook all day). They also take random screenshots of your employees desktop throughout the day to make sure your people are working on what they say they are working on.

Here is an example of their Max OSx desktop timer. It’s not as visually appealing as some of the others on this list, but it definitely get’s the job of time tracking done.

Hubstaff time tracking

If you do have employees or freelancers who work with you, you can actually pay them directly through Hubstaff.

If you are planning on hiring a bunch of employees, contractors, or freelancers and virtual assistants in the future, it might make sense to just start with Hubstaff.

hubstaff invoicing

In the beginning, it might seem like overkill, but it’ll make your life much easier down the road when you want to start tracking other people’s time as well.

Toggl Track

This is the time tracking software I used for a long time. Toggl is simple, intuitive and you can add a bunch of projects to assign your time to. This helps me keep track of which clients I’m spending a TON of time on and if I need to re-evaluate my pricing strategies.

Price: Free up to 5 team members; paid plans start at $20/month
Platform: 
Web, Desktop app, iPhone (iOS), Android, Chrome Timer
Notable Integrations: 
Asana, Freshbooks, Basecamp, Google Docs, Trello, Github, Slack, Teamwork, Salesforce, Quickbooks, Evernote, Zapier, Zendesk

You can add clients, projects for each client, as well as tags, which essentially allow you to tag projects so you can see how much time you actually spend on a specific type of work.

For example, if you work with clients you can add tags like “phone calls” or “email”, whatever will help you keep track of the activities you repeat for most clients.

They also have an iPhone app to help track time when you’re on the go – reading on the bus, or out on a call.

One of my favorite parts of Toggl is their desktop app. It will literally remind me every 5 minutes (if I don’t have a timer running) to track my time. This is great for those of us (like me) who often forget to track their time. You can also change the interval it reminds you to track time if every 5 minutes is too much.

toggl desktop time tracking

Cool features of the Toggl Desktop App:

toggl mac menu bar

They have great reporting, a visual timeline that passively tracks your time if you aren’t in there, and allows you to import and export data as well.

Lastly, the integration with Asana is amazing. I can literally start the timer from inside any Asana task, and not even have to open Toggl.

asana toggl integration

 

Due.com

Due.com is a tool that kept coming up in my research and people were raving about it. I wasn’t that impressed, at least with the time tracking piece of it.

Price: Free if you don’t process payments with their invoicing system.
Platform: 
Web app, Apple Watch app
Notable Integrations: 
Basecamp

The user interface just didn’t speak to me. To track time for a task, you had to create a project, create a task to assign to that project and THEN start the timer.

due projects time tracking

One of the things I love about Toggl is you can just start the timer at any point, and when you’re done with that task you can go back and assign it to a project or task. I don’t see that functionality here, but I hear the invoicing features are fantastic.

Maybe the way Due.com has it set up is helpful for some people who might just never go back to categorize it properly. For me this would keep me from ever using the timer.

You can just go back in and add how much time you worked on a project – so that’s a nice feature.

The invoicing side of things does look quite nice. I like this dashboard they have that shows how much money is outstanding, past due and received.

due time tracking dashboard

All in all, I wasn’t wildly impressed by this platform and the “ease” of time tracking. They also don’t have a mobile app if that is a deal breaker for you.

Freshbooks

time tracking billable weekWhile it’s mostly touted as an accounting and invoicing software, Freshbooks actually has pretty great time tracking capabilities.

Price: Starts at $15/mo
Platform: 
Web, Mobile Apps (no desktop app at this point), Chrome Timer
Notable Integrations: Asana, Bidsketch, Acuity Scheduling, Basecamp, Zapier, Trello, Slack, Shopify, Salesforce, Insightly, Zendesk, and a ton more. ***link to integrations page

I really like Freshbooks features, many of which are similar to the ones I’ve raved about with Toggl above. It has a visual timeline and a Google Chrome timer that allows you to start a timer without navigating to their website.

They have great reporting for those of you with team members, so you can see at a glance what everyone is working on and how much time they’ve billed.

freshbooks time tracking

And because they offer a great invoicing platform, you can also automatically bill clients for hours worked. Now that’s pretty cool.

They also have that coveted Asana integration I showed above where you can start a timer from right within an Asana task.

asana freshbooks integration

I use Quickbooks for all of my bookkeeping and invoicing stuff, but Freshbooks is one I keep considering switching to because I would be able to track time and send out invoices from the same platform.

Timely

Timely is a time tracker I hadn’t heard of prior to doing research for this article, but I’m wildly impressed. This is one of those platforms that was built to do one thing and do it really, really well.

Price: Starts at $8/mo
Platform: 
Everything? They have iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and even an Apple Watch app.
Notable Integrations: 
Google Calendar, Gmail, Office 365, Github, Trello, Asana, Todoist, Wunderlist

They give you multiple ways to look at your data, and the one I find most awesome is the calendar view. They actually show you how much billable time you had each block of time and add that up to show your days billable hours. Here, take a look for yourself:

It looks like it mixes RescueTime (tracking your websites and computer activity) with your own inputs. If you forget to log time for a project but it noticed you were working on a client website, it will recommend that you assign that some billable hours to that project…automatically. What?!timely tracking hidden billable hours

They also allow you to see how much budget is left in each project (so cool!) so you can see at a glance how everything is progressing, if you’re potentially going to go over budget (before you actually do!), etc.

Notable Mentions

Okay, so in this age of SAAS is king (software as a service) – there are thousands of others I can’t list, but I did come across some names a few times that need a mention:

Next, Conduct a Time Audit Using Your Time Tracking App

Alright so once you have chosen a tool AND logged the data of where your time is being spent, you’re going to want to actually look at it and see what changes need to be made to your routine.

As you saw from my RescueTime screenshots, I spend WAY too much time in email.

Find Out Where You Are Wasting Time

Go into your time tracking app of choice, and see where you are spending the most time. I’d look at the top 10-20 places and see if they correlate with “productivity.” If not, write them down.

Are you spending too much time on social? Are you wasting time around the office every day? Do you have a 30-minute time block you can find to get some exercise in, even though you’ve told yourself you don’t?

Be honest with yourself – and just so you aren’t shy, I’ll go first: I had RescueTime running for a LONG time and just really looked at it while writing this. Yes, that’s true.

Set Goals to Improve Your Time Management

Then, we are going to take those items you wrote down and come up with ways to reduce or even eliminate the time you’re spending doing those things.

Set SMART goals to remove one thing at a time. Don’t sit here and tell me you’re deleting Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and canceling Netflix all in the same day.

Just pick one, start small, and then once you master the time you USED to waste on that thing – move on to the next.

The key here is to make sure you’re actually implementing new strategies based on the time audit.

Repeat the Process and Improve Productivity

If you’re like me, you’ll set a reminder 2 months from when you start a new goal to check in and make sure you haven’t fallen back into that habit.

I can’t say I always DO something about that reminder, but I’ll set it. Don’t be like me. Follow up with yourself and see if you’ve stuck with it.

Then, repeat the process with another goal and continue to improve yourself and your business.

Chenell Tull helps course creators with paid traffic campaigns. She quit her day job in June of 2017 and has been learning the wild world of entrepreneurship ever since. She's sharing what she's learned while building her own business from side hustle to full-time, and the software and marketing tools she can't live without.
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