· technology ·

Screenshot of a BubbleTimerpage

Although I started tracking my time using a home-brewed, Tinderbox-based solution, I still look out for new and 'frictionless' ways to record the time I spend at work on various projects. One project that I came across recently has really impressed me: BubbleTimer.

Based on David Seah's Emergent Task Timer PDFs, BubbleTimer offers a very simple, but very powerful interface. As you can see above, you set up tasks in the left-hand column, then click the bubbles corresponding to the 15 minute time slots that you spent on that task throughout the day. At the end of each row, you get a total for the time spent on each task, and at the bottom of the page, the total for the day, with a pie chart of the percentage of time on each task in a popup.

You can also set goals (more than or less than x hours on task y), and the Daily Goal line is coloured red or green depending on whether you have reached your goal or not. You can also print the daily summary and even export ranges of data to CSV format for further analysis in your spreadsheet or statistics package of choice.

It's a very impressive piece of work. If you set up broad categories of tasks at the start, you don't need to keep entering a description of the task, as the tasks carry forward to subsequent days. So it's very quick just to click a few buttons in an open browser window as you work. You can track tasks as you do them, or fill in the bubbles retrospectively (after time away from your computer, for example). Visually, it's easy to see when you've been having a focussed day (long strings of bubbles) and when your day has been fragmented by switching between lots of different tasks.

There are also some lovely touches: the 'pencil scribbles' that fill in bubbles when you click them are not identical, so that it does actually look like a hand-entered sheet. If you hover over the total for a row, you get a little popup showing sparkline graphs for that activity for the previous 7 days and the current month.

There's a 14 day free trial, and it costs a very reasonable $20 per year to use. If you want an easy way to see where all your time goes at work, or you have a New Years resolution to keep (more than 30 minutes exercise per day or 4 hours per week learning Italian), it's an excellent tool to help you keep on course.