If you want to make the most of your time, then you need to treat it the same way you treat your money — as a finite resource that must be carefully guarded and expertly budgeted. With so many time tracking tools on the market, it’s easy to get bogged down endlessly reading reviews and details. And of course, every time tracking tool wants you to believe it’s the best.
What matters isn’t slick marketing copy or a cult following. It’s not good reviews or an impressive sales rep. It’s whether or not a specific time tracking tool works for you. Here are the questions to ask that can help you determine the time tracking tool that’s best for your needs.
Which Time Tracking View Works for You?
You know you need to track your time, but have you ever experienced a software update that left you unable to use your phone or operating system? Then you know that the way you view information matters. Look carefully at how the time tracking tool you’re considering displays time tracking information. Is time tracking displayed weekly, daily, or in some other format? How are hours logged? Can you change or customize the time tracking view? Does the view suit the way you manage your time? What about a timer?
Tools like Timepot and Timely both offer weekly views, while Harvest and Toggl both rely on daily activity lists. Take advantage of free trials to explore how each view works for you. You might find that you’re significantly more productive with a specific view of your activities.
How Do You Want Your Reports?
Reports about how you spend your time are an invaluable asset to your business. These reports make visible trends that you might not otherwise observe. For example, you might see that staff members are more productive during certain times of the day, after a break, or only for a limited period without a break.
The way reports are presented affects whether they are intelligible and whether you’re able to share them with your team. Timepot displays reports per project, task, and user, in addition to offering a free search. Reports are displayed in a graph or table, and like similar solutions such as Harvest, Toggl, and Timely, you can export results to a spreadsheet. Some programs offer different report views. Toggl, for example, offers reports on a team basis.
Can You Try Before You Buy?
Virtually every other time management solution allows you to try before you buy. When you invest in a paper planner, you can page through the planner in the store. Before installing an app on your phone, you can usually try a free version. Why should pricey time management software be any different? Quality time management solutions believe in what they’re offering. That means they’re willing to let you try the product for free, confident that your free trial will turn into a long-term membership.
Most major time tracking tools offer a free trial. The longer the trial, the more opportunities you’ll have to see how the product works in your life. Timepot offers a 30-day free trial and live demo. Toggl and Harvest also offer 30-day free trials, with Timely limiting users to a 14-day free trial.
Can You Track Leave and Vacation Time?
Time management isn’t limited to the time you spend working. The way you spend your down time can affect project completion and productivity. For example, some research shows that frequent breaks and more vacation time can actually improve productivity. No employee spends every second of their day working, so knowing how time off affects scheduling, and what use of time off produces the most optimal results, can improve outcomes at every business.
Employees also need to know when other staff members go on vacation. This information empowers them to more effectively manage their own time, and to plan for potential time management glitches when co-workers go on leave.
Timepot offers vacation and leave tracking, allowing members of the same project to share leave time with their peers. Timely allows users to add leave time in a weekly view, but this feature is not fully integrated. Most other time tracking programs do not offer leave time and vacation time views.
How Much Does it Cost?
You’re investing in time tracking software to save money and build more opportunities for profit — not to throw money down the drain. So the right program for you is the one that offers the fairest price for the most usable features. The price breakdown of some of the most popular programs on the market is as follows:
- Timepot: $4/user per month, for all features, with an unlimited number of projects.
- Toggl: Free to five users, then $10/user per month for the Starter package, $18/user per month for the Premium package, and $59/user per month for the Enterprise package.
- Harvest: Free for one user with two projects, then $12/user per month. Teams of 50+ users are eligible for discounts.
- Timely: Free for one user and five projects, then $12.60/user per month. Offers professional customization for teams of 100+ members.
How Much Can it Save You?
Time tracking isn’t just another thing to add to your rapidly expanding to-do list. It’s a vital tool that can advance your career, increase employee productivity, and ensure that your employees are accountable for how they spend their time. Ultimately, the decision about investing in time tracking software needs to weigh potential savings. Consider:
- Whether increasing productivity will allow you to take on more projects.
- Whether data about time use could help you hire the right employees or institute more efficient workplace policies.
- Whether increased accountability could encourage employees to handle their time more wisely.
- The actual value of the time you might save, as compared to the cost of the product. For example, if you bill your time at $100/hour, every hour of time that the software saves you is worth $100.
- To what extent missed deadlines and other examples of wasted time cost your business money.