Logging time

· gtd ·

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.