“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
― Charles Darwin
If you’re one of us who wish the day had at least 25 hours, you better read on.
Time is undoubtedly the most expensive currency that people have. In fact, it’s invaluable because it cannot be exchanged or reversed. Time spent is time gone.
Whether you’re a freelancer on a tight schedule, or a team leader who wants to make better use of employees’ hours, time management is probably your number one priority.
If you’re an independent professional, handling your time efficiently is key to your financial satisfaction and work-life balance.“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” ― Charles Darwin Click To Tweet
As for team managers and employers, managing the way freelancers and external consultants use their logged hours is crucial for achieving high levels of productivity and ensuring profitability of projects.
Enter time management apps – your partner in crime for boosting productivity. There are literally thousands of solutions on the market that you can choose from. While variety is great, it’s important to know what the main features to look for in a time management software are.
But before we jump in reviewing the best time tracking software for freelancers and employers, what are the guiding principles of effective time management? Let’s make a quick snapshot of why you need time management software, which can guide you through your workdays.
The key principles of time management
Being effective in your work or team management starts with understanding the ground rules of time management. Here are the basics.
#1. Track time to know where time goes
If you want to achieve your work goals, you need to know where the hours of the workday are spent. Whether it’s your own professional aims, or your team’s project deliverables, time tracking is the key to knowing where the precious currency of time is allocated daily.
Time tracking apps allow you to get a complete overview of time spending patterns. When you can review logged hours, you can understand patterns in your own or your team’s work processes. This is the first step to improving them.
#2. Practice prioritization relentlessly
Real time management starts with proper prioritization. You should always guide your scheduling by deciding on the most important tasks that should be completed.
There are a number of methods out there that can help you get started with effective prioritization. A top choice is the Time Management Matrix created by Stephen Covey. It’s a simple yet powerful tool: you have to split your tasks in four groups, which are spread over four quadrants in the matrix. They are: urgent and important (Q1), not urgent and important (Q2), urgent and not important (Q3), and not urgent and not important (Q4).
Quite clear, right? Your days should start with handling the tasks in Q1, followed by Q2 if possible. You should plan for activities in Q3, as they often arise unexpectedly. Finally, tasks from Q4 can be easily ignored, or used as a way to take a break between important activities.
#3. Create specific list of items to track time for
To devise a useful method for tracking and managing time, it’s best if you create a list with groups of task that you want to account for in your time management software.
For example, if you are a design freelancer, you may want to use a freelance time tracker according to the following criteria:
- Meetings and calls
- Client projects – a separate item for each project
- Personal projects
- Billing and accounting
This is only a rough skeleton, but you get the idea. The more granular that you can get in the way you track your time, the better your subsequent analysis of logged hours can get.
As for employers, time tracking items are also important. You can create a list of tasks that your contractors can choose from when logging hours. This will give you a detailed overview of how they are spending the time they are billing you for. In this way, you can easily manage which areas of activity are profitable, and which ones need to be better handled.
#4. Analyze time patterns
Once you collect data from, say, a month of daily activities, it’s time to delve into it. First, you can look at the time spent for each of the task groups that time has been tracked for. This immediately gives you information about the most time-consuming tasks and projects.
You can also look at tracking patterns around the different times of the day. If you’re a freelancer, they can give you insights into the best time slots to conduct certain activities. For team managers, such an analysis can inform you about your employees’ or contractors’ work patterns. This, in turn, can help you better choose the right person for each task at hand.
#5. Plan with actual data in mind
Time tracking on its own is not enough. You need to incorporate the information you gather from logged hours into your scheduling process. Look at the tracked time and juxtapose it with your most important work goals. At least 50% of your logged hours should be spent doing the most critical things on your to-do list.
That’s how you can also ensure that the time you spend on projects corresponds to their budgeting. Whether it’s for your own scheduling, or for your team, you need to know which activities are time monsters with little result, and which ones bring the highest return on investment. Then you’ll simply know where to focus.
#6. Pick your time management technique
If you want to optimize the way you or your team use the working hours, you can look into some of the popular time management techniques. For example, take the Pareto’s principle – or the 80/20 rule. It states that 20% of your activities account for 80% of your results. Work on identifying what are these 20% in your case, and how to focus energy on them.
Another method to consider is the Pomodoro technique. It tackles the actual way you are conducting your work. By using a timer to split your work day into 25-minute chunks, you can improve your productivity with ease. After the timer rings, take a break. When you’ve completed four intervals of 25 minutes, take a longer break to revitalize.
Why you need a time management tool
We’ve covered the basic principles of time management – and the ways to improve yours. But how about time management apps – why do you need one?
As an independent professional, you need to juggle a thousand responsibilities. Whether you’re a business consultant, lawyer, designer, or copywriter, you want to make sure your time is used wisely because time is money for you. By using a time tracking solution, you can see how your time spent and adjust your schedule. Often tracking tools offer billing and accounting features, so you can take care of these tasks straight in the same app.
Besides that, you want to make sure you complete the work for your clients in time. That’s a major requirement for developing good relationships with them and setting future expectations. Logging hours and analyzing your time patterns can help you get more productive, so that you can deliver your work as agreed.
Your tracked hours can also be a great way to showcase to your clients your efficiency and accuracy. By offering them a detailed overview of how you’ve spent the hours you’ve billed them, you demonstrate a strong sense of responsibility towards their budgeting and build up trust.
Managers and employers
Time tracking tools are essential for all types of managers and team leaders: from development teams and executives to sales team managers and contracting agencies. In case you are in such a role, the time tracking entries of the freelancers and external consultants that you work with are like receipts from the shop. You can use the data from your tracking tool to keep your books updated and decide how to allocate your budget in the future.
By using a time tracking solution with employee monitoring, you can ensure that your contractors are spending just the right amount of time on assigned tasks. You can also get an idea how much time each freelancer needs for certain activities, and thus decide how you distribute tasks and projects.
Apps that offer time reporting in the form of charts and diagrams are recommended. They help you understand time spending patterns through visuals, which is much easier and intuitive. In a way, they save you time.
Track Your Time on the Go
Time Management Made Easy With Hubstaff
Time management apps: the top hand-picked choices
When you know the reasons for using a time management solution, and you know what to look for in such a tool, you’re ready to make an informed decision and select the right app for your needs.
Here’s our list of great time management apps that can be of use to both independent professionals and managers of remote teams and freelancers. We’ve split them in categories for your convenience. Yes, we’re that sweet.
The first group of apps is dedicated to the top solutions for time tracking – either for your own records, or for your team’s needs.
We present one of the best time tracking software out there. We know because we’ve created it. It’s as great for freelancers, as it’s for remote teams.
Features: mobile time tracking, online timesheets, employee monitoring, in-depth time reports, scheduling, payroll system, project budgets, invoicing
Harvest is one of the big names in time tracking software. It’s there to help you operate your business with the needed insights in how you or your team are spending logged hours.
Features: mobile time tracking, online timesheets, visual reports, invoicing, scheduling, project budgets.
Another top choice for your time tracking needs is Toggl. Its promise: simplicity. The tool is good for both freelancers and team managers looking to improve the productivity of their contractors.
Features: online timesheets, visual reports, project budgets, scheduling, employee time overview.
There are a bunch of helpful apps that can do a great trick: they can free up some time from your schedule without making you ignore the important tasks. Here are our picks.
RescueTime is on top of our list for apps that can help you free up time. It tracks the time you spend on different tasks, in different windows and websites. When you see the report, you’ll immediately know what to do (yeah, delete that social media profile).
Features: time alerts for specific activities, daily accomplishments, block websites, goal setting, detailed reports.
Workflow is an impressive automation tool that can save you a ton of time. You can create a set of commands that connect the features of different apps, so that you don’t need to execute ten clicks to achieve one goal.
Features: automatic actions with a single tap, customized workflows.
The focus booster app is here to help you concentrate. It’s the perfect partner in crime for applying the Pomodoro technique, or another time management technique of your choice.
Features: instant online timesheets, interval time tracking, in-depth reports, mobile tracking.
To do lists
Let’s not forget to-do list apps. Many of them offer time tracking and other cool time management functionalities. We recommend the following:
Any.do is an app that helps you get things done. Besides lists of tasks, it has a calendar with notifications, and you get a virtual assistant!
Features: available for mobile, to-do list reminders, calendar, notifications, and virtual assistant.
Wunderlist might not make you a wunderkind, but it will certainly help you stay sane in your workdays. The to-do app has a personal version, as well as a business one.
Features: available for mobile, to-do list reminders, calendar, notifications, collaboration option, due dates, tags.
Last but not least, Todoist is a great option for making sure your to-do lists don’t get forgotten. It can be your partner in managing your own or your team’s tasks.
Features: available for mobile, to-do list reminders, notifications, collaboration option, projects with subprojects, recurring tasks, labels, filters.
Over to you
What’s your favorite time management technique? Which apps help you get more done, or manage your team of contractors better? We can’t wait to hear from you in the comments!