The easiest way to stay on task and make sure you’re making the most of your time is to have a way to measure the way you spend your time against the tasks you’re responsible for doing. You need a productivity app. And I want to talk about a few of the best productivity apps that are perfect for freelancers.
My sister told me that she gets interrupted no less than 50 times a day. Put a finger up if you can relate. We’re busy as heck and with the kids needing our undivided attention every 9 1/2 minutes, it’s a good idea to find a good system for quickly getting back on task and keeping track of the time you spend on paid work vs. mom work. Let’s talk about my favorite productivity trackers.
Why Are We Talking About Productivity Trackers and Not Time Trackers?
I really can’t stress enough the importance of being able to gauge and track your productivity on any given day. When you work from home, there seem to be two extremes you can easily slip over into:
Slacking off – spending all day doing the very least amount of momming and the very most amount of binge-watching Agents of SHIELD (or whatever your not-so-guilt pleasure might be).
Doing the most – being so busy crushing it and being so in the zone that you don’t realize you’ve been at your desk for 19 hours. And your family’s missing you.
I always seem to be teetering to one side or the other. Believe it or not, I originally began using productivity trackers to help me track when I’d worked a full day because I couldn’t tell.
I always had more on my to-do list than I could accomplish in a single workday, and instead of stopping at 5 PM, I would keep going until I finished, was dog-tired, or until I just fell asleep on top of my computer, not even realizing I was tired.
Hilarious, right? ?? Wish I was kidding even a little.
Productivity trackers will help gals like us to more easily identify:
- how we’ve spent our time
- when it’s time to concentrate on more high-level tasks
- when it’s time to change gears and move on to something else
- when it’s time to quit, either for the day or maybe just take a break
While time trackers are great for tracking the time you spent on a project (and a huge benefit when it comes time to bill your clients and itemize your bills if you’re a service provider), I think of productivity trackers as more for your own benefit and personal growth.
Freelancing requires a lot of discipline and having an app that allows you to track your behavior online (?? important) goes a long way toward helping you to maintain a work-life balance. (I hear such a thing exists.) Learning how to get the most out of every hour will help you to earn more money while spending less time working.
A Few Things to Consider When You’re Picking a Productivity App
When considering a productivity tracking app, it’s a good idea to think about the features you need the app to have to make sure it works for you. For me, I want to be able to do stuff like track time, create/modify task categories, group different types of tasks into levels of productivity, automatically separate productive from unproductive tasks based on my activities. I’d like the app to work across devices – from desktop to laptop to tablet to phone and back again. With a multitude of options in the market today, making the right choice might seem like it’s impossible.
Not all productivity apps are made equal. Some are designed for individuals while others are designed with teams in mind. But what if you’re a member of a remote team and you need an app to help track your productivity? There are TONS of tools out there, and choosing one out of the 20 or so Google surfaced for you on the first results page can be mildly mind-boggling. Here’s my productivity tracker of choice, and two more really good ones for ya.
RescueTime (my go-to)
RescueTime (?? affiliate link) is my daily go-to, clamped to all my devices by way of Chrome extension so I can track my activities on everything from my desktop computer (yes, I still have one of those ) to my phone.
I switched to RescueTime from Toggl (my go-to time-tracking app) when I realized I needed to be able to track when my workday was over (right? because the work itself never actually ends).
RescueTime is a great tool for freelancers who want to track how well they are using their time, which becomes pretty important for moms who are constantly toggling backing and forth between remote learning, family needs, and client work. That’s how I use it.
If you are a freelancer who requires features such as distraction blocking, this is the app for you. The app will track everything you do on the computer and produce a report.
Automatic time tracker: The monitoring app on your computer observes your computer usage and sends it to RescueTime servers. The app knows which app you use and for how long so you don’t have to manually log in your hours.
Distraction blocking: This is the most interesting feature of the app. It has a web blocker called FocusTime which helps you block distraction websites when you are working. Since I’m blessed/plagued with tunnel vision, I don’t actually use this feature at all.
Categorization: The app attempts to categorize all your habits on the computer on a different set of rules. For example, it classifies social media as very distracting while Evernote is classified as very productive. But you can modify these classifications. Since my job includes working on social media platforms and I usually don’t spend too much time on social outside of work, I recategorized social media as very productive. For me, reading articles is also a productive task because I research and write for a living. So, being able to update categorizations is a big one for those of us who need the flexibility to recategorize tasks.
For example, in November, I apparently fell into a Black Friday shopping rabbit hole because when I reviewed my hours and where I’d directed my attention at the end of Cyber Week, I realized that on Cyber Monday, I’d spent SEVEN HOURS OF MY WORKDAY SHOPPING. SEVEN HOURS!!! Bruh…
Schedule FocusTime Sessions: RescueTime lets you schedule and automatically start FocusTime with an alert. If you use Outlook, Office 365 or Google Calendar, you can add #focustime in the event name or description and FocusTime starts blocking distractions.
Slack Integration: RescueTime automatically updates your notification and status settings based on what you are working on in real-time so your team knows when you are focused on deep work.
RescueTime offers a freemium level with limited reporting features. But no worries, the paid version is affordably priced, and with RescueTime, you get a 14-day free trial with a valid credit card required. After the trial period, you can choose a paid plan which starts at $9 per month or $78 a year.
If you are looking for a robust freelance productivity tracking app, Timecamp does it all. The app has time tracker features and also acts as a lightweight project management app. It is an all-in-one tool that helps you manage all your projects in one place and collect information about your work as well.
Productivity Tracking: If you are a freelancer and want to go down on unproductive activities, Timecamp can help you out. It tracks the time spent on every aspect of your computer then compiles a report of the time spent on top productive activities vs the time spent on the top unproductive activities. This way, you can gauge your productivity and measure where you need to cut off some time and where to add the time.
Automatic Time Tracking: Timecamp has a desktop app with an automatic time tracker built into it. It works in the background syncing with the web giving you access to all information in real-time. The app detects idle time and tracks time spent offline and the individual activities you spend time on. If you travel on a regular basis, you can use the automatic web and mobile trackers and the GPS tracker as well.
Tracking Billable Time: You can easily set and track your billable and non-billable rates on different projects as well as track all your expenses.
Reports: Timecamp produces extensive reports and an in-depth analysis of all activities on your computer. It also shows your attendance, productive and unproductive activities, time off, underperformance, overtime, and more. You can also import or export the reports to analyze with other tools or share them with clients.
Integration on several platforms: Timecamp can be integrated directly with other apps or via Zapier. The app is also available on different platforms on Windows, Linux, and MacOS on the web as a Chrome extension and as a mobile app on both iOS and Android.
Timecamp offers users a 14-day free trial. After the trial time is over, you can use the Solo plan which is free or you can upgrade to the paid plans with custom pricing.
This is a time tracking app with features to help you improve your productivity. If you want to manage your time and know where and how you spend time on your computer, this app will help you out. It has an eight-sided tracking dice and a dedicated mobile app.
Automatic time tracking: This is a fully automatic app and all you have to do is flip it and it automatically tracks the time spent on different tasks. It will also record the time offline.
Categorizing: With Timeular, you can track the amount of time spent on your computer on specific tasks. Maybe you swayed over to social media for some time or had a meeting during your work time. The app categorizes specific tasks and the amount of time spent on each in the sidetracking dice. This way, you get to understand the time spent on productive activities and nonproductive ones.
Reports and tracking billable time: Timeular helps track your billable and non-billable time as well as generate detailed, transparent, and colorful reports. You can also add and easily delete time entries on the app.
Integration: Timeular has apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
Though the app has no free trial. It has a 30-day money-back guarantee if the app won’t meet your desired expectations.
If you want to improve on your own productivity, using one of these apps can help you get a better perspective of just how much time you spend doing the different things that make up your day. With some of these apps, you get extra features such as tracking billable time, tracking offline hours, productivity based on the amount of work done and extensive reports on your freelancing activities.
All apps are different despite having some similarities. It is up to you the freelancer to choose the best one for you. If you aren’t sure, try all of them and make a choice depending on your experience. That is why these apps have free trial periods.