I Timed My Activities for Half a Month: Here’s What Happened

Back when I was still working for my previous employer, one of the things I hated the most was “the system” that counts the literal seconds for everything that I’m doing. I think I mentioned this before (and I don’t want to reread old posts), but we were only allowed a total of 8 minutes to go to the bathroom. (Technically, it’s 8 minutes and 59 seconds.) If I’m trying to overdose myself with water while trying to recover from a cold, that amount of time isn’t enough.

If I exceed those 8 minutes, it would negatively impact my “rating” for the day, week, month, and even year. Just because I had “too much in the tank,” I had to take some sort of damage to my “company reputation” (at least that’s how I considered my ratings back then). That’s why I hated it so bad.

In their defense, it’s a pretty good deterrent against employees that like to take their time outside. I’ve sat in the seat that watches over everyone’s time before, and I understand that these few seconds and minutes turn into wasted hours. But are they really wasted compared to how much we slack off on work even if the system thinks we’re working?

I talk a lot of smack against that system, but I also love looking at the data and seeing where to improve. The amount of time slacking off on work is something immeasurable and the resources to figuring that out would highly be more beneficial to just motivating people to work. Which, at the time, was being done where I used to work.

Now that I’m working for myself, I sometimes become dumbfounded when the day ends because I’ve only “looked” at work rather than do them (AKA procrastination lvl over 9000). So, here I am, returning to that which I’ve considered vile and filthy – a time-management software.

The one I used is called Toggl. There are other options out there but at the time when I looked around, this was the one that looked great, performed well, and most importantly, was FREE (something difficult to find in most online services these days).

How Does It Work?

(Ideally, pictures would work really well here, but I also need a lot of motivation to write, and I don’t want to spend all that precious motivation on figuring out the best layout for photos on a blog post. Let’s leave it to future Levi, who’s going to post this article if he wants to put examples or not.)

[Future Levi here – I don’t have the time to experiment with the photos. I apologize.]

Toggl works just like the timer on your phone, just with an added field where you can put down what you’re doing. You can either use it on your browser or install it directly on your computer (and even your phone). And that’s what I love about it. I am the one in charge. I get to time myself!

It lets you see what activities you’ve done throughout the day, and how long it took you to do them. The app also adds the time together if you’ve entered the same thing. For example, if tag a timer “Idle Browsing” three different times throughout the day, I’ll see the total amount of time spent on Idle Browsing, while also showing the breakdown. At the end of the week, Toggl will send you a report that shows you the same stuff but on a weekly format. This way, you can observe yourself from a daily or weekly perspective.

It Helped a Ton

There are lots of ways to use Toggl to help yourself. For me, I noticed that I don’t have as much time to focus on specific aspects of my life. To prove that this is correct, I’ll use the app to record the time of all my activities and see where I can adjust. After a week of tracking continuously, I noticed that I spent too much time getting up in the morning, being distracted on YouTube (yes, I had a timer for that too), and eating while watching TV. I could use that time for more productive activities (like watching anime instead jkkk). Figuring out how to convert those hours into something more intentional is another topic in itself, though.

There were other benefits as well. I noticed that whenever I turned on the timer for working, I would work for a significantly longer time. I would often even forget that I turned on the timer and just continue working non-stop. When I’m slacking off, I would see how long I’d been idle and feel bad. So I’d go back to work.

Toggl had been a strong tool to counter my tendency to be distracted, remind me how much more time I need to keep working and somehow keep my focus longer than usual. However, these “power boosts” seemed to have a degrading effect over time.

It Helped a Ton (Emphasis on Past Tense)

While Toggl was great with identifying where I could improve, having to turn out on a clock over and over again whenever I switched to another activity got old really quickly.

I know this sounds terrible, but I started to care less about going “overtime” on unproductive stuff. Sometimes, I just want that extra “rest.” But because I’ve started ignoring the timer, the frequency of me opening the Toggl app on my devices grew less and less. I would also forget to change the label of the timer when I went on to other activities. It was a snowball that started from something small.

I’m not entirely sure why this happened, but this already happened before. This is actually the second time I’ve used the app, and the results have been the same.

(1) Be more productive while time tracking,

(2) Get tired of time tracking.

(3) Go rogue and do things on my own.

I’m not sure if I just got way too dependent on the tool, or have developed a love-hate relationship with time tracking. Maybe it’s another one of those segments of the month when I’m at the bottom of the productivity curve (more about that here). Maybe, I just prefer having a change of pace every so often. If the “cooldown period” runs out, I might try it again with a slightly different style.

At least, I’m still able to maintain the habits I’m trying to strengthen, which I feared when I gave the app another shot. I’m still working a decent amount on most days too. I think the app has served its purpose, but it’s time to go rouge again for now.

That’s Toggl for you. It’s free, so why not try it out? I’m sure that the app wasn’t intended to be used like how I did, so you might have a better use case for it.

2 thoughts on “I Timed My Activities for Half a Month: Here’s What Happened

  1. I have never used any app to track time but whenever I have my to-do-list, what I do is write it in THREE different places (yes! Three!) i.e on my phone, on my desktop sticky notes, and on a piece of paper. In that way, I could easily look up what’s next on the list and don’t miss a thing. But when referring to tracking my DAILY tasks, I have them set on my alarm. Of course, I didn’t get them perfectly (like you know, start and finish on time hahaha) but at the end of the day, I manage to complete all the tasks (thank God for that). Thanks for sharing Toggl! I’d like to see if it works for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! Thanks for commenting. 🙂 If you can do them all without time-tracking, you might be able to do more with their help! You can try using an app called TickTick for quick reminders. I might write about it soon. Thanks for the idea!

      Liked by 1 person

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