Do you have any idea how much time you spend sending and reading email each day?
Not long ago, I decided to find out. Using my iPhone’s timer, a paper and pen, I tracked and calculated all the time I spent reading, responding to, deleting, or in some way dealing with email. I was appalled—but not shocked—to discover that on most workdays, the total is around two hours.
Email is just one of many time-wasters, of course. But now that we’re in a new year, I’ve resolved to waste less time so I can spend it on more meaningful ventures. (Hello, 14-disc Blu-ray Alfred Hitchcock collection!).
There are tons of time-tracking apps designed for businesses, but I wanted one meant for tracking personal time. The recently released iOS app aTimeLogger 2 ($1) does the job reasonably well, though it’s not always as intuitive as I’d like.
The app comes with predefined categories such as Sleep, Eat, Sport, Read and Shop. Tapping a category icon from the app’s timer page starts the timer for that activity, and you can pause or stop it when you switch to something else. aTimeLogger 2 breaks down your activities in several ways. The app lets you view time spent by activity in a bar chart, a list (called "History") or pie chart. It creates customized reports as well, which you can export as CSV or HTML files. And you can set timers for activities to keep you on track.
As pleasing as the icon-driven interface is, it’s not always clear how to perform certain tasks. For example, the developer’s website says you can group activities, such as "Email" (a category I created) and "Internet" (a predefined category). But I found no instructions for how to do this, and the app itself doesn’t make it obvious. I emailed the developer’s tech support and received a prompt reply with instructions on how to group activities, but they are a bit cumbersome. However, the developer’s email says a "Move to" feature will be added to a future release, which should make grouping activities easier.
There’s a free version called aTimeLogger, which has many (but not all) of the same features as the $1 version. You might want to try out the freebie first to see what you think. (You can import data from the free version into the paid one later, according to the developer).
For the app to be useful, of course, you’ll have to remember to start and stop the timers. And after you have the data comes the hard part: Changing your time-wasting behaviors. I doubt there’s an app for that.
BTW, if you’re still in New Year’s Resolution mode, check out my last post about PaperKarma, an iOS and Android app that helps rid your mailbox of junk, as well as my post about the FitBit device and app.