Reactive time tracking of a day’s consulting work

Do you need to keep track time but find that the act of time tracking itself often gets in the way of your flow? Do you need to find the emergent patterns of your work day? That is at what times of the day that you find the most productive and at what other times you can’t seem to get anything done? Perhaps you need to control the amount of time you fool around in Facebook or just stumbling around the web?

We’re working on an application that does reactive time tracking — that is, it silently monitors what you are doing and then let you later classify your time into various projects. The idea came from David Seah’s paper-based emergent time tracker series, and we aim to make a more automated version of it.

We call this app Time Fairy because just like a fairy, it silently sits in the background and keep notes while you are working. It sees the applications that you are running and records the time you interact with each application. It also gently reminds you to keep being productive. At the end of the workday, you can pull up a report of that day and you can allocate your activities to the various projects that you are working on.

Time Fairy works best for desk-bound information workers. People like technology freelancers, web designers, writers, and internet journalists should find Time Fairy useful. Conversely, Time Fairy won’t be much help for those who spend more than 50% of their work time walking around.

A prototype daily report of Time Fairy is shown below. As you can see, Time Fairy caters for multitaskers. That is, it allows you to overbook your time and work on multiple projects at the same time.


Let’s say that the report above shows a sample work day of Jane Doe, a web journalist. She has three projects at hand:

  • Project A is a web-video presentation piece.
  • Project B is preparing for a conference presentation.
  • Project C is a number-crunching and data analysis piece.

At the start of the day, she spend some time reading and writing e-mails with her correspondent and the e-mails were primarily for Project A and Project B. At around 10:00 she starts writing intensively in MS Word and also browse the web using Safari to source her materials for Project A. She also create her web presentation for Project A initially using PowerPoint. Both Project A and Project B shares some materials, so she double-book the some of her time in PowerPoint doing both projects.

Just after noon, she goes out for lunch and this is shown as a large “break” time as her computer is idle and screen-locked.

At about 14:00 she had her lunch and again reads some of her e-mail. This time the e-mails are primarily for Project B and Project C. Then at around 15:00 she sources for materials from the web using Safari and crunch the numbers she got using Excel.

Late in the afternoon at around 16:00, she realized that she needs to complete Project A’s web video. She already converted the PowerPoint presentation into video format and now starts touching it up in iMovie. While the movie is being rendered, she also continue working on Project C calculations in Excel while sourcing data from Safari. Then at 18:00 she completed today’s tasks for Project C and Project A and then open Mail to compose and send the results.

Sounds interesting? Tell us what you think of it in the comments. Better yet, sign up to be a beta tester for Time Fairy.


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  • John Uhri

     This seems like a good idea, but as a user of TimeSnapper, I see that my day is broken into many, many little slivers of time where I type a sentence in Word, pause to think, edit, look up something on Wikipedia, edit, think, type a sentence. These little slices are too small to be of use for tracking. It seems like a good way to track time, but it isn’t practical.

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