I suppose this is something of a LazyWeb request: for various reasons that I'll explain below, I want an easy way to record, log and report on my activity at work. Before I write something myself, does anyone know of a good tool for doing this? I'd consider a standard Mac application, Unix command line utility, or even an online application at a pinch.
There are loads of invoicing or billing applications out there, but that's not quite what I'm looking for. My time isn't billable (unfortunately), nor do I have clients as such (unless I get all management-speaky about the students and other 'stakeholders', which I hope I'll never do). What I'd like is a very simple and quick way to record a description of what I'm currently working on, and whether it's admin, research or teaching related, then hit a 'record time' button to record how long I work on it. Ideally, I'd also like to record activities after the event, if I have a lecture or a meeting that I'm not able to record actively. I'd like to be able to view and export a simple report of my activity each week, showing total hours and the percentage of time spent on each of my 3 categories of activity. In needs to be very quick and easy to use, and unobtrusive when I want it to be, otherwise I'm never going to use it, and cheap or free because I'm a poor academic.
So, why am I interested in doing such a crazy thing? There are a couple of reasons:
- I'm not required to log my time in detail at all, but funding bodies now use the concept of Full Economic Costing (FEC^1^) when funding grants. As a consequence, we're supposed to record the percentage of time each year that we spend on different categories of research, teaching, admin and so on. We just try to guesstimate it, but I'm a scientist and I'd like to have some actual data to base my guess on.
- I'm curious. Juggling teaching and research (not to mention the administrative load of each) is very tricky, so it would be interesting to know just how much time I spend on each. I also feel that recording my time would help me focus without getting distracted, and also provide a bit of positive feedback at the end of the day. I'm feeling very swamped at the moment, so anything that might help seems worth trying. It's very easy to have a madly busy day and feel at the end of it that you haven't accomplished anything, when you've actually got quite a bit done. Alternatively, it could end up totally depressing me -- frankly, it could go either way.
So, do any of you know of any great software that I've missed?
^1^ See 'Father Ted' for pronunciation. ↑