Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Software for time management

I find that it's very hard to budget my time as a grad student. Partly, this is the nature of research -- every project should be non-routine (and therefore a little bit unpredictable) in some respect. Partly it's the lack of direct supervision, formal structure, or near-term deadlines.

But even taking that all into account, I put in a lot of hours and often have a very poor sense of where my time is actually going. It's hard to know if I'm getting my priorities right, and how long to budget for repetitive tasks.

So I've decided that it's time to get empirical about time management. I spent a couple hours today looking for time management software.

I went in looking for four things:
1. Free
2. Easy to use
3. Platform independent -- I need to be able to switch between computers running linux and windows
4. Automatic task tracking. I wanted a utility that would track which applications I use and which web pages I visit, and use them to deduce what I'm working on. Timesheet does this.

Here's what I found so far. (I can't tell you exactly how long I spent on this, but it was a couple of hours at least.)

http://slimtimer.com/users/home
Thinking I would like the flexibility of a hosted app, I registered with this site. After playing with the interface for 20 minutes, I was not impressed. The whole thing was very clunky and counterintuitive. Rejected.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_time_tracking_software
A good list, but focused more on business software. Maybe a little TMI, actually.

Rachota 2.2
This is the solution I'm going with for now. It's free, easy to use, and built as lightweight java application -- and therefore platform independent.

Rachota doesn't work automatically -- you have to tell it every time you switch tasks -- but I've decided that that's probably healthy for me. Making a mental note when I switch from one thing to the next will probably help me prioritize better.

Unsolved problem: Rachota stores your files in a handful of .dtd and .xml files. I can email them to myself when I switch machines, but that's a pain. Is there a slicker way I can manage the problem of multiple computers?

5 comments:

Brady said...

To manage on two computers, consider Dropbox (dropbox.com). If you can direct where the files are saved, put them in your dropbox folder, and they should sync across systems

Rob said...

Try http://www.timedoctor.com for complete time tracking of what you are doing for the whole day, this software will also remind you to track your time which is important as it's easy to stop doing it, and then emails you once per day to tell you what you did.

Anonymous said...

Hi

I read this post 2 times. It is very useful.

Pls try to keep posting.

Let me show other source that may be good for community.

Source: Time management software

Best regards
Jonathan.

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Time Attendance System

Online Timesheet said...

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