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Why Hasn’t Anyone Solved This Huge Time Tracking Problem Yet?

July 5, 2013 · 1 comment

Hi, I’m Dave Larson—@TweetSmarter. I help people find great tools and use social media well. I’m the ex-VP of marketing for BufferApp, Klout usually in the 80’s, CEO of management consulting firm Oppora.  Want to build this project or something like it? Let me know and I’ll help promote it!

Ever Made a Game of Tracking Your Progress?

It’s a great motivational boost, among other benefits, isn’t it? And there are lots of apps, like time-tracking apps, that try to help.

The astronomical clock

But many people have trouble tracking things, even with the help of apps, for reasons such as:

  • ADD-like issues;
  • Difficulty or fear of learning new tools;
  • Being constantly interrupted;
  • Time- and project-tracking tools  too complicated for average users.

Sure, anyone can click a “start tracking” button. But what happens next?

I’ve got a solution, I’d love to share it with the world, and possibly help a developer build a business around it.

I’ll explain the problem by way of describing my solution.

I and everyone I have talked to would pay for the solution I’m about to describe.

Have a single-click interface. One button.

I already have easily implemented this on an Excel spreadsheet.

Click the button, and it records and stops tracking one item, and starts tracking another, or simply starts the first item of the day. (I’ll explain how the item is tagged in a moment.)

If you forget to click at the right time, a back arrow on the left edge lets you jump back in 1-minute increments to when the change between tasks happened. A forward arrow on the right edge lets you move forward in time. (Smaller arrows to the right and left could allow moving in 15-second increments.) A timer appears below the button so you can see total time as well as start time.

Ever notice how most people use the “instant time” button on their microwave (mine goes up in 1-minute increments), instead of setting a particular time? Even when it means they have to stop it before its overdone? The convenience of a single button press with almost no associated thought is very compelling.

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This solves important problems that no one else is solving.

The learning curve of one button is next to nothing: Click it to start tracking, click it again when you do something different.

Why is it so important that this be made easy, that you don’t have to stop one thing and then set up another before continuing?

Because if you have ADD-like issues or get interrupted a lot, there is insufficient focus or time to consistently stop one item and and assign and begin tracking a new item in the tracking interface.

► Without consistency, the results will be invalid, and usage won’t continue. No one who has trouble with a tracking interface in the first place wants to spend time trying to fix the results throughout and at the end of every day.

This solves issues whether your interruptions/tasks come via browser, installed software, phone or in-person. Most apps that try to make tracking more seamless rely on tracking what’s happening on your computer, but that ignores phone and in-person interruptions and tasks, and some, like RescueTime, need a lot of interpretation later.

How Do You Know What You Are Tracking?

When you click the button, tags/task classifications (which can also include client names) drop down from a menu to the right of the button. Click one to choose, or hover and detailed sub-classifications fly out as choices.

At any point you can click to change the tag on any tracked task, or add a sub-tag from the fly out menu for more detail.

This has been huge for me, but I want to share it with my team…and the world

I’m too busy at present with paying work and missions that I care about to become the developer for this project. But using my little spreadsheet has been huge for me.

Interested, want to help, or want updates on this project?

Leave a comment, ping me on TwitterGoogle Plus or email me at CEO [at] Oppora [dot] com

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What are the benefits of tracking?

These typically include:

  1. Solving the right problem: Believe you’re putting in 8x time but it’s really only 3x? Something will change.
  2. Control from game motivation: You now have a bar on a chart that you control. Make it taller and unlock new achievements.
  3. Commitment support: It’s now easy to engage others in helping. You have a progress measure you can publicly share and commit to.

And much more. Tracking benefits are mentioned throughout much of the literature on self- and time-management.

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