The Importance of Tracking

Before you want to manage something, you must first understand it. That sounds obvious, but it’s quite a challenge. This applies to projects, portfolios and even yourself.

To take the personal example, most people would like to be more effective at work, or in their personal lives. It’s hard to do that without knowing what you’re currently spending time on. This is where tracking comes in, where you think you are spending your time, may not be where you actually are spending your time. A neat application for this purpose is Rescue Time, which logs activity on your computer to produce activity reports like the one below:

Example of RescueTime reporting

Example of RescueTime reporting

By using RescueTime, or the following the broader principles it advocates, you can become better at managing your time, and hence improve your productivity. Perhaps the most compelling angle of RescueTime is data collection is automated, so you can get granular detail on how you spend your time without investing time to input a mass of data, or worrying about data accuracy. Both major problems with tracking systems.
A detailed review of electronic time tracking systems can be found here on Mashable.com, and DesignM.ag has this overview of time management principles for those who work freelance, though I think it’s broadly applicable to anyone who has some degree of autonomy at work. Finally, if your a Mac user, Minco is an interesting new time tracking app.

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