When in the flow, concentrating hard and making progress (or not), I, for one, find it difficult to quantify the passing of time. When I’m messing about, tweeting and generally procrastinating, it’s even harder. And that can be frustrating; for the freelancer or pro rata worker, the slipperiness of the seconds, minutes and hours can be very costly.
As always, technology is ready and waiting to help. But time-keeping apps so often fall by the wayside because we just can’t be bothered to use them. And even if you can be bothered, remembering to start and stop the digital timer at the precise moment you begin work, or put down your tools, is a task of nagging tedium.
Maybe that is why nulldesign (aka Lars Gercken), the developer of freshly hatched time-keeping app Tyme (retailing at $4.99), feels the need to entertain users with snazzy graphics and in-depth analytics. But are a few pretty bar charts really enough to keep you focused on your time management?
The feel of Tyme is very much akin to that of a classy to-do or list app, such as Things or Clear. Although it is an app which has very obviously been optimized for menu bar usage, it is in Tyme’s small window that the administration of tasks, and the viewing of those oh-so-gorgeous graphs, happens.
The look is a combination of darkroom greys and vibrant colour for the highlights, and clutter is kept to a minimum. The controls on offer are given plenty of space on the frame of this window, either at the top, or bottom.
Projects and To-Dos
There’s good reason as to why Tyme looks like a to-do app — it works like one.
The time you spend is split into overall Projects, and each of these contains individual Tasks.
New Projects require that a name and a colour be assigned to them, but there is also the option to add a due date and include pre-existing tasks.
New Tasks also require a name, but they inherit the hue of their parent project. That said, the shade given to each task within a project is fractionally different, meaning that each task has a visual uniqueness to it. This is particularly useful when you come to look at your analytics graphs (see below).
Tasks can also be assigned a due date, as well as an estimate of the amount of time needed for their completion. This, and all other recorded time periods can be rounded upwards, downwards, or to the nearest 1, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes.
The best thing about Tyme, though, is its presence in the menu bar.
Clicking on it produces a drop-down list of your recent tasks, and each of these may be clicked to toggle recording. Additionally, the menu bar item can display the task on which you are working, the length of the current session, and the total time spent on the current task.
One other thing I must mention is Tyme’s attention to inactivity. After a certain period of inaction — an amount of time decided by you — Tyme will stop any running timers, and assume you’ve gone AWOL. Clever.
But what about those beautiful graphics I promised you? Well, they’re…um…beautiful.
The analysis of your work can be split into weekly or monthly segments, and split by Project, too. Whichever combination you go for, you’ll have several types of data at your disposal.
At the top is a bar chart. Each bar represents a day, and is made up of sections which are coloured to match the tasks that were worked on, in representative portions. Below this chart, for even closer scrutiny, Tyme also lists the amount of time spent on every task (in figures).
Further down the dashboard are three circular charts. The first illustrates the total tracked time and the time each Task has taken; the second illustrates exactly when you’ve been working; the third shows the average amount of time you’ve worked per day, displaying it as a percentage of the “working day” (you can adjust this to suit your daily workload).
Blocks of working time can be added manually in this view, as well — handy for when you forget to start the timer.
Helpfully, the data that Tyme collects can be exported, and three formats are available — CSV, HTML and Print/PDF.
Time-tracking is a simple task, and only poor development can make it otherwise, a fact that nulldesign seems to have noted. Tyme is visually sleek, easy to use and cannily constructed.
In fact, the only negative of using Tyme to count the hours and minutes of your working day is that it is, in essence, a dumb stopwatch, and no matter how much you like the graphics, you’re going to need enough persistence to keep starting the timer, in order to gain any benefit.
If you really are determined to keep track of your progress, Tyme represents a very good time-tracking assistant.