3 essential tools for time management

Man holding up an alarm clock

Admit it, we all sometimes have those days when it’s a struggle to focus on the task at hand, and you feel like you spend all day trying to switch between tasks and end up achieving nothing.

If you need a little help with keeping track of the tasks at hand (and figuring out where you’re really spending your time), the below apps will be invaluable.

Awesome Note

Awesome Note is like a diary on steroids. In fact, it is much more than a diary: it is a calendar, organiser, photo album, check-list, scrapbook, note pad, recipe book, to-do list, anniversary manager, reminder and file sharer/back-up. Phew!

If you are like me and depend on lists for, well, everything – then you will love its to-do feature. You can add in colour coding, reminders, alarms and progress reports to an ordinary to-do list to take organisation to another level.

It is available on the iPhone and iPad, and syncs across both devices. Better still, it syncs with Evernote (I talk about Evernote in part one of this article series).

Desktop Task Timer

Desktop Task Timer is an online time logging system for Macs. It can be used to keep track of your billable hours or for personal projects. It is very user-friendly, yet flexible enough to handle a wide variety of business needs.

This is not only useful for those who work in billable hours, but it is also a great time management tool that allows you to assess where your time is spent (and wasted). It’s hard to be more efficient and focused when you don’t know exactly what is taking up your time.

The app fits into your menu bar, so you can access it at any time. The best thing about this business app is its simplicity. I simply enter a task and click start. I can choose to pause it, insert more tasks than one- if I’m feeling ambitious, and can even select several output time formats and rounding options. From the moment I press stop, the total hours and minutes are calculated.

For those without Macs, there are a number of alternatives that you can either download to your desktop, or run through Google Chrome. I like Task Timer for a fairly simple approach that lets you set up a number of tasks, input your target time to completion and tracks how much time you’re spending on each.

RescueTime

This service shows you how you spend your time on the computer and provides tools to help you be more productive. Only use this service if you are prepared to be more focused and to waste less time in your business!

RescueTime sits in the background of your computer and keeps track of what you do and for how long by monitoring your computer use. You can also use the web-based service to keep you on track. For example, its ‘Focus Mode’ allows you to voluntarily block the distracting parts of the internet for a period of time you specify.

When you set up RescueTime, you can allocate how much time you want to spend to certain tasks, such as writing documents, using social media or checking emails. If you go over your goal time, the app will give you an alert to help you keep on track. At the end of the day RescueTime gives you a breakdown of your usage and lets you know which application, web site or document is used the most.

Constant multitasking, numerous distractions on your time and the relative isolation that can come as part of owning a small business can all make it easy to give into distraction and lose your organisation. By taking back the control, you’ll be able to better manage your time and spend less time distracted, meaning your deadlines will be met and you’ll ultimately have more time for doing the things you love.

In part five of this article series, I’ll be showing you how you can turn one of the major distractions you face, social media, into an invaluable tool for your business with some apps to help you effectively communicate with your customers.

  • John W.

    Thanks for sharing RescueTime, although I’m no longer using it but that’s a pretty nice app! To be honest, I just realized that some time monitoring software is based on old technology and they just do plain time tracking. I’ve bumped this blog on a forum site and it explains well on why most time tracking software is flawed. So if I’m going to choose a software again I would rather have to take a few review first before trying it out.

  • Kumar

    I would say, you have got some top time trackers in your list, but what about Replicon’s employee time tracking software?

  • Dan

    If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this web-application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    Gtdagenda .com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.

  • George Cook

    Check out Proofhub as well for better time management. Also supports project management and collaboration.

  • Lisa Muhar

    PhraseExpander (praseexpander.com) is another great time saving tool! It eliminates the need to type repetitively, and is great for coders (store commonly used snippets) Docs who need templates, customer service agents who use the same phrases over and over. Or for technical support agents who have FAQ’s…anyone who has FAQ’s, actually! I use the tool and absolutely love it!