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Time Tracking for Focus + Benefits of Time Tracking

Time Tracking for Focus + Benefits of Time Tracking

Judy Tsuei
Writer
June 6, 2024
Updated on:

Time Tracking for Focus + Benefits of Time Tracking
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Should time tracking be part of your daily workflow? If so, what are the best apps to help you get started?

Below, we’re breaking down all the reasons why we believe time tracking is the unsung hero of productivity. Plus, we’re sharing our favorite time tracking apps, across all different types of use cases. Whether you need time tracking software to bill clients, oversee your team’s bandwidth, or simply become more aware of how you’re spending your time, keep on reading!

What is time tracking?

Time tracking is the process of recording the amount of time you spend on different tasks. For example, if you’re a freelance web designer, you might track time spent working on Client A’s home page, Client B’s wireframe, and Client C’s onboarding. Alternatively, you might track your overall work hours, from the start to the end of your workday. The latter is more common in industries where employees clock in and out.

You can track your time manually with a timer and fresh document, which you’ll quickly discover to be a time-consuming endeavor. Or, you can use a time tracking app which automates most (or all!) of the process for you.

Why use time tracking software?

Time tracking software helps streamline the process of time tracking, so you can focus on your actual work. Also, many apps offer more than just a built-in timer. They can help you generate reports, categorize time entries, invoice clients, and more, depending on which tool you choose. Overall, time tracking apps help minimize the administrative burden associated with time tracking.

What are the benefits of time tracking?

Besides how easy it is to incorporate into your workflow, here are some more reasons to consider a time tracking system:

  • More accurate time estimates. Are you a freelancer who charges by the hour? Time tracking gives you an accurate record of time spent, so you gain a clearer idea of how much time specific tasks typically take. This allows you to provide your clients with realistic time estimates and quotes for future projects.
  • More accurate invoicing. Similar to the point above, time tracking is great for anyone who charges by the hour, freelancers included. Time tracking ensures that you capture every second of billable hours and get fairly paid for your time. It’s also beneficial for your clients, making sure you don’t overcharge them. It’s a win-win.
  • Optimized profitability. Even if you don’t charge by the hour, time tracking can help you price your services in a way that maximizes profits. For example, if you charge a flat rate for a service that ends up taking more time than expected, you might not be making as much profit as you could. By keeping track of your time, you can discover opportunities to improve your bottom line.
  • Informed team management. Leading a team? Time tracking software can give you visibility into how team members are spending their time. This allows you to easily pinpoint bottlenecks and boost employee productivity, without micromanaging your team. By analyzing time tracking data, you can make informed decisions about how to improve team performance, prevent burnout, and more.
  • Streamlined processes. As mentioned above, time tracking tools cut out many of the manual processes associated with tracking time. For example, create automatic timesheets without having to touch Excel spreadsheets ever again.The best tools also combine time tracking with other functions like project management, invoicing, and reporting, so you don’t need to manage a clunky workflow with too many apps.
  • Improved focus. Once the timer starts, it can act as a nudge to focus more steadily on the task at hand. Knowing that you're tracking your time can create a sense of accountability. When you're aware that your time is being monitored, you may be more inclined to stay focused and avoid distractions.
  • Better personal time management. Beyond billing, invoicing, and other business-oriented functions, time tracking can be a powerful way to take stock of your personal and professional life. How do you prioritize your different activities? Are your current habits supporting your work-life balance? By tracking how much time you spend on different projects and activities, you gain the awareness you need to make improvements. That’s why time tracking is our first recommended step in conducting a time audit.

Top 5 time tracking apps

Now that we’ve gone over the many benefits of time tracking, let’s explore a few of our top recommendations for time tracking tools! Below, we’ve included options for everyone — from the solopreneur to large enterprises. You also find the full list here

1. ClickUp

Clickup Time Tracking features
Keep track of your time with Clickup

ClickUp is an all-in-one productivity platform that combines project management, team collaboration, and (you guessed it) time tracking. In other words, if you have a remote team and you’re looking to simplify your tech stack, then ClickUp is a mighty contender. Impressive feature set aside, though, let’s zoom into the platform’s time tracking capabilities.

ClickUp makes time tracking simple by letting you track time on multiple devices. If more than one person is working on the same task, you can also combine all of their tracked time. ClickUp also lets you add notes to your entries, create time estimates, and generate timesheets. 

The downside? Time tracking is a feature that’s affected by ClickUp’s paywall. For advanced time tracking features, such as time tracking with a timer (vs. manual entry), labels, and marking entries as billable or non-billable, you’ll need an Unlimited plan (or higher). With the free plan, you’re limited to only 60 uses of the time tracking feature, with no reporting.

Final verdict: ClickUp doesn’t shine as a time tracking solution unless you’re paying for an Unlimited plan or above. However, if you take advantage of ClickUp’s wide feature set and use it as the all-in-one project management software it is, then a membership is likely worth it. 

Pricing

ClickUp offers four plans:

  • Free Forever: $0
  • Unlimited: $7 per member per month, billed annually
  • Business: $12 per member per month, billed annually
  • Enterprise: Contact for quote

2. Clockify

Track your time with Clockify
Use Clockify to keep track of your time. Image source: G2.com

One of the more generous options on this list, Clockify’s free plan includes unlimited users, unlimited tracking, and unlimited projects. There aren’t that many free options when it comes to multiple users, making Clockify a great app for employee time tracking.

With Clockify’s time tracker, you can input entries manually or with a timer. The free plan also allows you to create timesheets with employee work hours, use Calendar View to visualize tracked time, and use the built-in Pomodoro timer. It also includes a kiosk feature, which means you can set up a shared device from which employees can clock in and out. 

Paid features include invoicing, scheduling, time off, advanced reporting, and more. Ultimately, we recommend Clockify if you’re looking to manage a team’s time and you need basic timesheet and time tracking capabilities at no cost.

Pricing

Clockify offers five plans:

  • Free: $0
  • Basic: $3.99 per user per month, billed annually
  • Standard: $5.49 per user per month, billed annually
  • Pro: $7.99 per user per month, billed annually
  • Enterprise: $11.99 per user per month, billed annually

3. Harvest

Timesheet Creator
Create timesheets with Harvest. Image source: GetHarvest.com

Harvest is a time tracking and invoicing software designed for teams of all sizes, across all types of industries. In Harvest, time tracking is intentionally made to be intuitive and lightweight, so it doesn’t disrupt your workflow. It features a start and stop timer, a weekly timesheet, and the ability to organize your timers by client, project, and task — all of which you can access via desktop, mobile, and web browser.

But don’t let its simplicity fool you. Harvest is packed with powerful reporting features that give you insight into employee performance, project costs, resource management, and more. Harvest also includes built-in functionality for invoicing and payments. Create invoices from timesheets, include reimbursable expenses, and accept online payments via Paypal and Stripe — all from one platform. Plus, Harvest offers over 50 integrations, allowing you to customize and streamline your workflow.

The catch is that the free version only gives you one seat and two projects.The takeaway? Whether you run a small business or a global enterprise, Harvest has the tools you need to track your time — and get paid for it — effortlessly. Just be prepared to pay for Harvest Pro if you’re tracking time for more than two projects, or if you have a team.

Pricing

Harvest offers two plans:

  • Harvest: Free forever
  • Harvest Pro: $10.80 per seat per month, billed annually

4. Timely

Use Timely for tracking billable hours
Timesheet software for billable hours and AI-powered automation. Image source: timelyapp.com

Next up we have one for the automation lovers. Timely is an AI-powered automatic time tracker that precisely records how much time you spend in various apps, so you don’t have to bother with a start-and-stop timer. For business owners that charge by the hour, Timely’s automatic time tracking means accurate billing — a win-win for you and your customers.

But time tracking isn’t the only feature that gets the AI treatment. Timely also includes AI-generated timesheets. Timely’s Memory tracker works in the background to automatically and privately log your work as ‘Memories.’ When it’s time to create your timesheet, all you need to do is drag and drop your Memories to the correct clients and projects. Over time, Timely’s AI learns how to accurately match your Memories, so you can spend less time on admin.

Other notable features include billable rates, tags, payroll, capacity management, resource allocation, invoicing, and project management. Overall, Timely is an awesome choice for hassle-free time tracking. The only downside is that there isn’t a free plan. However, you can try Timely free for 14 days, so you can decide whether it’s worth the premium.

Pricing

Timely offers three plans:

  • Starter: $9 per user per month, billed annually
  • Premium: $16 per user per month, billed annually
  • Unlimited: $22 per user per month, billed annually

5. Toggl Track

Time Tracking Software with Toggle Track
Easy time tracking system with Toggle Track. Image source: Toggl.com

If you’re looking for a straightforward time tracking solution that’s free, we invite you to check out Toggl Track. Toggl Track’s user interface isn’t only intuitive to use; it’s also quite beautiful, especially when compared to more utilitarian platforms like Clockify.

Toggl Track’s free plan provides just about everything a freelancer would need: unlimited time tracking, unlimited clients, exportable reports, and invoicing. Plus, it’s free for up to five users. Need something more robust for a growing team? Toggl Track offers more advanced features — like monitoring project progress and profitability, billable rates, fixed fee projects, and timesheet approvals — through their paid plans. All plans let you visualize your data in different ways, helping you improve metrics.

Notable features include offline time tracking, automatic time tracking, a built-in Pomodoro timer, and a browser extension that lets you start and stop your timer without switching tabs. All in all, Toggl Track is a wonderful solution for many use cases from time tracking and payroll, to billing and invoicing. Our only gripe? Although Toggl Track lets you create invoices out of your time reports, there’s no way to make these invoices payable. That means you’ll need to use another tool to actually receive payments from your customers.

Pricing

Toggl Track offers four plans:

  • Free
  • Starter: $9 per user per month, billed annually
  • Premium: $18 per user per month, billed annually
  • Enterprise: Contact for quote

Using time tracking for focus

Here at Clockwise, we’re huge believers in the power of focus to transform our workdays. It’s the reason we encourage time tracking as a way to improve time management and focus. It’s also the reason we created our AI-powered scheduling assistant, which opens up long blocks of free time, perfect for focused work.

If you often struggle with finding your flow, especially with cognitively demanding tasks, Clockwise is your secret weapon. Not only does Clockwise automatically create more Focus Time in your schedule, it also:

  • Enables Do Not Disturb mode in Slack whenever you’re in a meeting or in Focus Time
  • Automatically declines any invitations during your protected Focus Time
  • Gives you real-time analytics, so you understand how you’re spending your time

Ready to sharpen your focus and make the most of your workday? Try Clockwise for free today.

About the author

Judy Tsuei

Judy Tsuei is a Simon & Schuster author, speaker, and podcast host. She has been writing for Clockwise for several years while also being featured in MindBodyGreen, BBC Travel, Fast Company, Hello Giggles, and more. As the founder of Wild Hearted Words, a creative marketing agency for global brands, Judy is also a mentor with the Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed accelerator. Judy advocates for mental and emotional health on her popular podcast, F*ck Saving Face. Follow along her journey at WildHeartedWords.com.

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