Time Sink: Where Exactly Are You Spending Your Time?

Time management is incredibly important for many people. We all have busy lives and the more we can get out of our time working, the more time we have for other things. With there being only twenty-four hours in a day it really comes down to being as efficient as we can with the time we have.

Time Sink is an application that helps you become more efficient. More specifically, it tracks the time you spend in different applications on your Mac and you’ll be able to see exactly where you’re spending your time. Trust me, you may think you’re operating with the utmost level of efficiency, but I’m certain the data will uncover some room for improvement.

Introduction

Let me paint a scenario for us to use as an example for this review. Let’s say you’re a new freelancer and have recently been feeling like you’re just not as productive as you thought you would be once you made the jump to this lifestyle. You feel like you organize your time fairly well and just can’t seem to nail it down, but something is up. Well, maybe you’re not spending your time on what you should be and you’re just not realizing it.

Right, I’m sure you’ve never been there. Me neither. For the sake of this review, just follow along with me. I’ve installed Time Sink to track where I spend my time while I’m on my Macbook to hopefully provide myself some insight into exactly what I’m doing. How does it work you ask? Let’s take a look.

What it Does

Time Sink is a fairly simple application that runs in the background without you ever needing to worry about it. When you download it, fire it up and it’ll start tracking right away.

Organizer

Organizer

The application will track your application usage and record both active time (foreground) and time running. So for example, I use The Hit List as my task manager application and while I have this thing running just about all day I probably don’t spend all that much time with it actually active. I use a shortcut key to pop up an input task window and will refer to it periodically throughout the day for a minute here or there. In this case, the total time used would be large, but the foreground time would be much smaller.

That is really about all Time Sink actually does. Where it really becomes useful is in the customization and reporting.

Customizing

Time Sink has a fair amount of flexibility to allow you to tweak exactly what you track. If you spend a little time configuring the application right away you should be able to tune it to get just about exactly what you’re looking for.

Blacklist

If you’d like to ignore applications you can blacklist them (Time Sink does ignore itself if you were wondering). You can block entire applications or use wildcard characters to block windows of a certain name.

Blacklist

Blacklist

Pools

Application grouping is another way to get a little more out of Time Sink than you would with the default settings. This allows you to group applications together for whatever reason you see fit. You can then see reports based on those groups (we’ll check that out in a bit).

The pools section of the organizer

The pools section of the organizer

If you’re a web developer, you could put all of the applications you use in a “development” group. This way you can get a sense of the amount of time you spend working on development. On a more simple, higher level you could create a group for “work” and a group for “play”. That way you could have a high overview of the time you spend working versus playing.

Activity Report

The real value in any application like this is being able to pull out the data in a useful manner. Time Sink has a few different options to do this as well.

The Activity Report is the main method for viewing your data. It displays in a simple bar chart based upon the different applications running and also on the groups you have set up. You can view by certain time periods by adjusting the times at the bottom of the report or by clicking and dragging on the window. This acts like a zoom-in essentially and lets you view a specific time interval.

Activity Report

Activity Report

You can simply open up this view to look at the report. You can also view the report as your desktop background, an icon in the dock or both.

Activity Report as the background and as an icon on the dock

Activity Report as the background and as an icon on the dock

I’ll be honest, neither of those seem like good ideas to me, but I suppose some folks might find them useful.

Exporting

Exports of your data can be exported as a comma delimited file either manually or automatically. You’re not going to be able to export some pretty file. You’re more or less getting the raw data.

Export settings

Export settings

You have some export customization options as you can see. So, as with most other portions of this application you can fine-tune its functionality.

Example of a CSV export viewed in Numbers

Example of a CSV export viewed in Numbers

With a little work done upfront on your end you could really automate the data collection that Time Sink performs. An automatic export could be set along with the timers being reset. For example, you could do a daily export everyday at 11:00 pm and then reset the timers once a day as well. That will give you a snapshot of your work every day. Then if you want to get really crazy you could probably build some Applescripts to combine your data and build a Numbers chart for you. I’m not going to do that, but it’s certainly possible if you’re crazy enough about your data.

Time Sink’s main functionality is recoding and accumulating the data so the ability to simply export the data a great feature. This really opens it up for you to do whatever you’d like with that data.

Conclusion

For the freelancer, an application like this, with a little time spent customizing, could provide some really useful data. You might discover some places where you’re wasting your time, or maybe even completely the opposite. Maybe you’ll discover you should be taking more work breaks. The bottom line is that just about everyone could see some benefit from knowing this information about their computer usage.

Time Sink does a really great job of compiling the data that you want. The reporting functionality built in is pretty basic, but still, I’m guessing it’s quite sufficient for a lot of people. But the fact that data can be exported really opens up some doors to an endless amount of analysis should you want to take it further. $4.99 seems like a pretty reasonable price for the information this application can provide you. It’s not really a stretch to say that it can have a direct impact on how you live your life.


Summary

Time Sink is an application that records your application usage on your Mac. It can be tuned to provide you specifically what you're looking for.

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