Round-up: Tracking time, your boss’s marriage, etc.

From time to time, I’m asked to recommend productivity or time tracking software. It’s a question I’ve resisted answering for two reasons. One is that I’m a hopeless technological Luddite. I put things on my pen-and-paper calendar, keep to-do lists in paper notebooks, and get confused when people send me strange attachments with calendar entries for conference calls. The second reason is that I keep thinking that someday I’ll launch my own “168 hours” app (designed by somebody else!) that will help people keep track of and analyze their personal and professional lives. I welcome ideas on what people think that app should look like in order to be least intrusive and most useful (and, in one vision of the world, report data back to me. Someday I intend to do a large scale time diary study – again, with a lot of help).

But there are certainly products and ideas out there. Chris Hewitt wrote me recently, after reading something I’d written, to share a tool he developed. He invented his Productivity Timetracker during a particularly busy period of his life (when he became the father of twins!). The tool lets you analyze how much time you spend doing different categories of activities. If you set a goal (like exercising 5 hours per week), you can then see which category you can shift that time from, sliding the bars to see the incremental shifts. I think it’s pretty cool looking, so if you give it a try, let me know what you think. 

Taskk is a new time management tool, now in beta, that helps you plan your days. In that sense, it’s like many time tracking tools. But the cool feature of this one is that it forces you to estimate how much time a task takes. This reality check keeps you from aiming to work 8 hours, but scheduling 10 hours of activities under some hopelessly optimistic view of the universe. Taskk is in beta, so you need to request an invite, but it looks like they’ve got the right idea — asking you to prioritize tasks, for instance — so it also seems worth a look.

On a totally different topic… Over at CBS MoneyWatch this week, I wrote about “Why Your Boss’s Marriage Matters.” On their blog, Nicole & Maggie had posted a link to a study finding that men in more traditional marriages (defined by stay-at-home wives) were less likely to promote women. I analyze why this might be.

At Lifehacker, Peter Bregman writes about why you should have a “To Ignore” list in addition to a “To Do” list.

The Frugal Girl poses an interesting question of whether “having it all” needs to include having a career.

Tom VanderArk writes at the Getting Smart blog about ways philanthropists can hasten the shift to digital education. My favorite idea of his is developing a merit badge system, associated with the Common Core, which would indicate that a student has mastered high school material. Picture 250 merit badges that show you’ve mastered the curriculum. Earn them and move on. That would be a nicely visual diploma. He thinks you could do that for $1 million (getting schools to use it, of course, would be a different matter). Anyone want to bite? 

 

5 thoughts on “Round-up: Tracking time, your boss’s marriage, etc.

  1. Interesting idea re: boss’s marriage. It’s one of the things I’ve noticed anecdotally at work – men with SAH wives tend to view kid-related commitments of their team members as distractions/not important, vs. men whose wives also work. In general they seem less sensitive and less likely to get “the juggle”.

    I’ve never worked for a woman so I can’t say if it works the other way around too 🙂

  2. If people are just looking for software/apps to let them assign time to different “projects”, they should look at time charging tools used by freelance developers. I’ve never done a search, because I don’t need such a thing right now, but I know such tools are out there because some of my contractors use them.

    My two most recent exercises, I just used a spreadsheet. I describe the format I used in this post:
    http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2010/09/time-for-reorg.html

    But honestly, this is one thing where I don’t think it matters HOW you do it. The act of tracking your time will tell you a lot, no matter what tools you use.

    I have toyed with the idea of finding a non-intrusive app and doing a long term time tracking exercise, and then publishing the results, annotated with what was going on during various peaks and valleys. But I’m not sure that even I find my time usage that interesting! I doubt it would be interesting enough for other people to make it worth the effort.

  3. I have noticed the correlation between the boss’s marriage and their view on taking time off for kids. Bosses with working wives definitely seem to be more understanding since they also have to help more around the home!

  4. Amen and Amen to The Frugal Girl! I quit my part time nursing job when we moved out of state and the kids were 5 and 3. I ended up staying home for 12 years before returning to work when they both were in high school. Now I’m an empty nester and have a nursing career that I enjoy. I didn’t homeschool but I did a lot of volunteering in the classrooms,didn’t have to worry about days when they were sick and took long summer trips to visit our extended family without having to worrry about getting time off from work. Fortunately, I have a husband whose income could support us and we definitely adjusted our lifestyle. I feel like I have had the best of both worlds but it was our CHOICE. Maybe having it all means having choices on how with combine family with part time work, full time work or no work.

  5. I do the “estimate how much time a task will take” with my at-home to do lists (with my pen and paper list). I don’t use it to keep from over-scheduling myself but to motivate myself to actually get the work done. (One of those cases where stuff you don’t want to do looms so much bigger than it is. When I look at a task and figure that it’s only going to take 30 minutes (or whatever), it’s easier to make myself tackle it.)

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