Let’s be honest, there’s a dark side to working from home. You’re wearing your most comfy pair of pants (or no pants at all), you’ve found a nice cushy spot on the couch and the sun’s streaming in, and there’s piping hot coffee in front of you. But despite your most valiant efforts, you just can’t stay on task.
You’re not a bad person, you’re just human - and procrastination traps are everywhere. Clickbait jumps out at you from Facebook and you can’t resist. Donald Trump tweeted something ridiculous and you have to share it. There’s a new Game of Thrones theory that needs your urgent attention. Or maybe you’re still addicted to Candy Crush like it’s 2013.
Before you know it, the day has ebbed away and you’re suddenly filled with dread. What will your manager say? How will you make the project deadline now? Does the company know you’ve spent a whole day researching the family trees of Westeros?
Luckily, there are some powerful online time tracking apps to help you monitor those tasks and avoid the deadly sin of procrastination. We’ve chosen the Top 8 to help maximise your productivity while you’re working remotely.
You probably saw this one coming! Sure, we might be a little biased, but WorkflowMax has a huge range of online time tracking features already included, such as daily and weekly timesheet views and custom notifications.
Working from the beach? Track time on the go with the WorkflowMax iOS app. Forgot to submit last week's timesheet? No problem! You can even complete them retroactively.
If these core functions aren’t enough, WorkflowMax integrates with SIX additional time tracking add-ons: Adobe Time Tracking, Actual, Prod Timer, Eon, Timeslice and Time Doctor. Pick the ones you like and take your productivity to insane, super-human levels.
The Good: WorkflowMax is a complete end to end project management software in the cloud. All of your information is stored in one place, so you never have to jump between apps. After completing tasks you can seamlessly push timesheet data into the next stage of your workflow. It’s also highly customisable with many add-ons, and offers convenient access from all your devices.
The Bad: WorkflowMax is a comprehensive project management solution. If you only want to block websites or beat procrastination, you might be better off with a single-function piece of software.
My personal second favourite, RescueTime, is an undeniable lifesaver. RescueTime generates daily or weekly scores measuring your productivity, using a metric called “productivity pulse”. This tells you when you’re most productive (apparently 9am to 11am on Wednesdays is my golden time).
The Premium version of RescueTime is helpful for Facebook and Reddit addicts (or whatever site you’re hooked on). RescueTime allows you to block distracting sites while you work. Or if you need that little fix to survive, you can programme RescueTime to allow a limited period (say 30 minutes) browsing blacklisted sites per day.
It’s amazingly effective because most recreational browsing is impulsive (and preventable). Sure, you could go through the rigamarole of disabling RescueTime and get your thrill, but chances are you won’t bother. It comes with several other groovy features as well, including a log of daily highlights (so you can brag about your achievements), and customisable alerts and notifications.
The Good: Clear and intuitive interface. Highly customisable - you set your own goals, and define which activities and websites count as productive.
The Bad: Defining ‘unproductive’ websites and activities can be tricky; especially if you work in social media. Requires a paid subscription to block websites.
3. Adobe Time Tracking Widget
If you’re a WorkflowMax customer who uses Adobe, the Adobe Time Tracking Widget will be your new best friend. As cool as our project management software is, no one wants to be constantly switching between timesheets and their beautiful InDesign creation. Those administrative disruptions are a buzzkill and can be the death of creative focus.
Now thanks to this brilliant widget you can link WorkflowMax and your whole Adobe Suite. This enables you to automatically track your creative billable time, without breaking focus or stopping to log hours. It’s a match made in heaven.
The Good: Works with the entire Adobe Suite (InDesign, InCopy, Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects and Prelude). Tracks your billable time and creates timesheets in WorkflowMax.
The Bad: Slight learning curve when setting up. Doesn’t measure the time you spend elsewhere.
Eon is another online time tracking app that integrates beautifully with WorkflowMax. Boasting simple features and gorgeous design, it’s nearly impossible to have a bad experience with Eon. If you accidentally wander off and end up gazing out the window at your attractive neighbour, Eon will notice that you’ve left your desk. Once you’re back, just a simple click will resume tracking your tasks.
Eon also allows you to switch between several projects at once, without compromising your seamless time tracking experience - so it’s great for busy creatives and multi-taskers.
The Good: Simple and elegant timer. Allows you to set up rounding rules (e.g. round to the nearest minute, or half hour). Integrates with WorkflowMax to make invoicing a breeze.
The Bad: Requires you to stop and start the timer on projects, so it takes some discipline. Doesn’t monitor your web browsing.
Toggl is one of the most popular online time tracking apps out there, with over half a million customers. People love it for it’s clean, uncomplicated design. Simply fill in a memo about your task, then click to start time tracking. Toggl then lets you organise these time records, creating a neat little overview of your day.
Toggl might not conquer your Facebook demons, make you rich or improve your love life, but it does offer a crystal clear picture of your work habits and completed tasks. It also generates sexy, professional looking reports to show your boss or client.
The Good: Even the free subscription offers a tonne of features. Easy to access with iPhone, Android or desktop. Allows you to add an unlimited number of projects and clients.
The Bad: You need a paid prescription to create billable rates.
6. Focus Booster
Focus Booster is another useful weapon for your arsenal of time management tools. Focus Booster is based on the infamous Pomodoro (or tomato timer) technique. It’s designed to help you stay focused and avoid distractions by working in timed bursts of 25 minutes. These are separated by 5 minute breaks, so you can grab that coffee, quickly check Facebook, or stare at the wall having an existential crisis.
As well as timing your focus sessions, Focus Booster records them all in a timesheet. This offers valuable insights into your work habits, so you can plan for greater efficiency in the future.
The Good: It’s 100% free! The coloured bar sits on top of your other apps, giving you a visual representation of how much time has passed.
The Bad: There’s no pause button (since the point of focus sessions is to ignore distractions). This may not be suitable if your job requires you to answer phone calls, or deal with frequent interruptions.
SelfControl is an app designed for the truly hardcore. It’s not time tracking in the traditional sense, but it can definitely stop you wasting your day. Like RescueMe, SelfControl can be programmed to block your access to certain sites (like Facebook, Twitter or your email). Just write up a blacklist of naughty websites, set a period of time, and click start. Until the timer expires you will be blocked from those sites, letting you get to work without any distractions.
Here’s the kicker, though...Once you click start, IT CAN’T BE UNDONE. Even if you delete the application or restart your computer, you’ll have to wait for the timer to run out. How awesome (and terrifying) is that?
The Good: Merciless rule enforcement. If you have absolutely zero willpower, this app may be a god send for avoiding those time-sink websites.
The Bad: Merciless rule enforcement. If you enjoy flexibility and regular breaks, this app isn’t for you. Only available on Mac.
8. Time Doctor
Time Doctor is a nifty online time tracking tool to help your whole team up their game. Just like your friendly medical professional, Time Doctor diagnoses your weaknesses and offers practical solutions. It does this by monitoring your whole team’s computer usage; including their mouse and keyboard activity, website tracking and application tracking.
Time Doctor sends daily reports of these activities to managers and staff, allowing everyone to see where time and productivity is lost. It may sound a little Big Brother, but there are plenty of benefits to be reaped from such in-depth analysis. Time Doctor can also be seamlessly integrated into WorkflowMax.
The Good: Great for managers who want to monitor their staff while working remotely. Prompts you to resume tracking if computer has been idle. Detailed monitoring, including screenshots of your team’s individual web activities.
The Bad: Your staff may not like having their web behaviour monitored - any privacy concerns will need to be addressed before implementation.
So there you have it, 8 awesome online time tracking apps to keep you focused when you’re working from home. Do you have a personal favourite? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to know more? Check out these tips for maximising your remote working experience, or read about the importance of security when working remotely.