I won’t be the first to tell you that human beings have incredibly short attention spans. When we’re working for a lengthy amount of time, it can start to be a struggle to keep our minds on the task at hand. This has been exacerbated by the internet and the amount of possible distractions, which has increased so exponentially. As a result, it is more important in this digital age than ever for you to keep track of work time.
Now, granted, you may think that this isn’t an issue for you personally. There are some people out there with iron-clad focus, who are not afflicted by the distractible mind that many of us are cursed with. However, this is rare. More likely than not, you simply may not be realizing the little pockets of time you are losing through small site detours and web surfing sessions. This is especially true if you’re currently working from home, since there is less pressure to be on task in a home environment. Additionally, usually workplaces have some form of site restrictions set up that home workspaces lack.
Even if you think you don’t have to keep track of your work time, I guarantee that there is a chance you’re less productive than you think. But being able to truly and objectively look at how wisely you spend your time can be difficult.
Why Should We Keep Track of Work Time?
If you feel overwhelmed at your work, it may not be because of the actual amount of work you have (although this definitely is a factor). Instead, you may simply be losing small pockets of time to minuscule distractions like an email or a quick, innocent social media peek. In the Washington Post, efficiency consultant Edward G. Brown says that small interruptions to our work cadence can cost us up to 6.2 hours per day.
Being able to keep track of your time, or at least being able to measure what you spend your time on, is an extremely helpful factor in productivity. It can help you identify those small, minuscule distractions, which will prevent them from building up. Being mindful of these will be the first steps in turning them around and alleviating your sense of being overwhelmed.
How Do We Keep Track of Work Time?
So, now that’ve espoused the benefits of keeping track of your time at work, it’s time to move onto the meat of the article. How exactly do you keep track of work time? Do you have to mentally keep count of the seconds you spend on a single website? Or should you use a stopwatch for every new break you take (I certainly hope this isn’t the first thought you jumped to).
The fact is, mentally keeping track of time can be very difficult— mainly because our brains like to exaggerate. We feel like we’ve been more productive per minute than we actually are, which causes problems when we self-gauge our mental focus.
Luckily, there is a much easier and accessible option for time-tracking: Google Chrome extensions! Utilizing a digital tool is a strong way to keep tabs on your digital footprint, especially since half of our wasted time at work comes from surfing the web in small doses, according to Time Doctor. This means that as long as you can use the extensions to keep track of your digital time sinks, you can eliminate half of the overall time you lose.
At Wing, we’ve been focusing on improving our productivity through small changes. As a result, our team has experience in completely and efficiently tracking and managing our time via a variety of Chrome productivity extensions. We’ve compiled the ones we’ve found most effective in the following list for you.
A quick disclaimed: our list of Chrome productivity extensions are not meant to be used all together. Many of these extensions perform similar functions, so I’ve listed their pros and cons for you to help make the decision simpler.
Table of Contents
- Clockify Time Tracker
- Productivity Tracker
- Rescue Time
- Focus to Do
- Strict Workflow
Keep in mind that these Chrome productivity extensions are being recommended for time-tracking or time-managing purposes only. There are definitely more extensions out there to increase your productivity. We at Wing have you covered with other types of tools as well. Check out our Google Chrome productivity extensions for blocking out distracting websites here.
In order to make this list easier to understand and navigate, we’ve split up these Chrome productivity extensions into different categories and uses: manual time tracking, automatic time tracking, and time management tools.
Manual Time Logging
The first type of time tracking tool is the manual time tracking tool. By “manual” i mean that these are tools where you need to actively click a button to tell the extension to begin tracking time. These can be very useful for managers and teams, as well as people who have multiple projects they are juggling.
However, the common theme among these is that it is very dependent on the user being willing to use it. If you’re somebody who neglects the tools he or she should be using, these may fall to the wayside quite easily.
Our first tool is Clockify, and is definitely one of the most useful out there. Clockify Time Tracker has an absurdly deep set of possible uses, but it all starts with its project tracking tab. You can access this tab on the left, where it says “Time Tracker.”
“Time Tracker” is fundamentally simple to understand. In the top bar, you have the option to select a “project,” a “client,” as well as enter in a “task” that correlates with the project. It is entirely up to you to decide what each of these parameters represent.
As an example, I’ll explain how I approach Clockify’s time tracking (you can also check the above picture for reference). First, my client is usually whoever I’m working for; in this case, its Wing! I define the “project” as whatever deliverable I have, and the “task” as what part of the deliverable I’m on. Once you type in whatever “task” you want to work on, you press play for it to begin logging time.
Whenever you’re done working, you simply press stop. Being able to log how much time you put into individual parts of a project can be extremely beneficial. After a while of using the service continuously, Clockify should have a good deal of information about how you spend your time. There are a variety of different ways you can visualize and measure it, all of which are well-organized. These include a Dashboard where you can see graphs depicting the split in your time, as well as a Reports tab that can show you weekly, daily, and detailed summaries of how you long you’re taking on certain projects.
You can create new workspaces and add new team members to your Clockify. This allows for a way for multiple people in your organization to utilize it for time-tracking. Clockify can be set up for large teams, which is a boon for managers who want to have a better handle on how their employees split up time. However, greater team features like reminders, goals, alerts, and project templates would cost you money. One paid version of Clockify is the Plus plan, which costs 10$ per month. This nets you some solid features like setting goals and reminders for you team as well as lock timesheets. Another version is the Premium version, which costs 30$ a week.
As I mentioned earlier, the time data that Clockify has on your project habits can be extremely useful. It’s a great way of getting a handle on how much time you take for certain projects. Additionally, the multitude of visualizations that Clockify gives you can be very useful. For instance, in the Dashboard tab you can see the division of your time via bar chart. The UI and design of Clockify is extremely clean, and everything is easy to understand and even easier to use.
Clockify also has a lot of customizability that makes your quality of life easier. These include a dark mode, an ability to automate your time (kind of) by starting the timer when the browser opens, and even idle detection. Idle detection means that the extension will figure out that there has been no activity. Then, it will subtract that idle time away from your project time. It’s smart and intuitive.
Clockify doesn’t have any glaring flaws at all, so this cons list might be extremely short. The only issues that one could have with Clockify is moreso about its foundational time tracking type: specifically, the fact that it is manual time logging instead of automatic.
Because you are basically responsible to start tracking time for yourself, Clockify depends a bit on your own discipline in willing to keep track of your time. That means if you’re somebody who isn’t on top of it, then it may slip your mind. Quite frankly, only using Clockify at spotty intervals would make it much less useful.
Additionally, Clockify can’t really tell if you’re slacking off when you’re logging time. You are perfectly capable of saying that you’ll be working on something when you’re instead surfing the web. This goes back, again, to the idea of discipline. If you slack off easily, then Clockify’s data might be entirely off.
Toggl and Clockify are incredibly similar, especially in their Chrome extension versions (both of them are mobile apps as well!). Toggl’s UI and time logging tools look very similar as well. As a result, many topics in this review will be very similar to Clockify. Before we dive in, the biggest difference is that Toggl is a little more advanced, but can come at a much more steep price.
First and foremost, the basics of Toggl works like Clockify: create a project and a task, then start logging how much time you spend working on them. Features such as daily, weekly, and summarized reports can be accessed. Idle activity and an in-app Pomodoro reminder is usable too, similar to Clockify.
Toggl’s premium plan is the main demonstration of how its different from Clockify: Toggl is simply a lot more geared towards businesses. Its first paid plan, the Toggl Starter, is billed as $10 per month ($9 per month if you pay yearly) per user of the system. It provides benefits like allowing you to see where you earn your revenues or how well you’re hitting deadlines. There’s also the $18 Premium pack, which has additional features like even getting a Toggl consultant. Evidently, there is a strong focus on business tracking and business teams. If you’re using Toggl for more individual means of time-tracking, this may be unnecessary.
Toggl, just like Clockify, is an extremely strong tool for anybody with the will to remember to use it. Because of Toggl’s easy and advertised integrations with various platforms, it can be slightly more useful than Clockify. Toggl’s emphasis on business settings means it can be a strong tool for hard-working professionals, especially managers. The pricing per user can get extremely expensive, but Toggl’s paid versions do provide a lot more useful tools for professionals.
Toggl’s cons are very similar to Clockify as well. If you aren’t on top of logging your time or staying on task while tracking time, Toggl’s data would become relatively useless. That is, unless you pay for Toggl’s premium versions, which has a tool that can tell you the time you spend on certain websites. If you’re using Toggl’s free version and you aren’t the type to be extremely disciplined, then maybe this wouldn’t be the most useful tool.
Automatic Time Tracking
Our second way to track your work time is using automatic tracking tools. These are strong because they pick up on what you are doing even and intelligently can split up your activity. You just have to turn on the extension, and it will immediately start tracking.
Productivity Tracker is definitely one of the strongest tools out there if you want to be able to retroactively look at your productivity for the day. It also graphs out your productivity in a very simple and intuitive graph.
Basically, what Productivity Tracker does is keep track of your keystrokes and clicks over a period of time. This might seem like an interesting metric, but it really is super smart. Their solid reasoning is that, if you’re slacking off and watching Youtube videos, then you likely would barely be using your keyboard or your mouse. Meanwhile, if you’re heavily working on a deliverable, you would be typing a lot more. It makes perfect sense.
In practice, Productivity Tracker’s theory works out very well. When your work session ends, and you take a look back at Productivity Tracker’s line graph, you can usually come to a very strong understanding of what your productivity was like. The tool is simple to use, considering its automatic tracking. You can also adjust the timing to see how productive you were in certain periods. Productivity Tracker may be simple, but the beauty is in its simplicity.
There are only a few small things that could potentially be wrong with Productivity Tracker’s theory. For one, only tracking keystrokes and clicks can be a bit arbitrary. For example, you could slack off by playing a game that requires a lot of typing/clicking. In that case, it’ll count you as extremely productive even if you were actually completely distracted. Additionally, you could be productive without typing all the time, such as if you were reading or watching a long report for work. As a result, Productivity Tracker will believe you were actually unproductive.
Obviously, these are flaws within the initial premise, not the extension itself. All in all, the possible misunderstandings inherent within Productivity Tracker aren’t
Rescue Time is definitely one of the strongest and most well-designed tools out there for productivity tracking. Once you turn it on, it automatically logs your time spent on different websites. Rescue Time’s tool then automatically sorts these sites into either productive or distracting sites. After you use it for a day or two, you can start to see reports on how long you spend on “distracting sites” and how long you spend on “productive sites.”
This app is fundamentally just a very ingenuous extension. The idea of tracking each and every site, and then showing the user what sites they spend the most time on, makes a lot of sense. And, in practice, Rescue Time does this extremely well.
Every site has a productivity level and a category, such as “Reference and Learning” or “Entertainment” sites. Rescue Time is very strong in differentiating these sites accurately. You can really just let Rescue Time run in the background, and the data it collects can be extremely reliable.
Rescue Time has a lot of benefits, right off the bat. Like I said earlier, it is super reliable, and it’s extremely easy to to use. It’s very useful to look back at your old work and see exactly how you spent your time. This information is useful to keep yourself accountable while you’re working— you can no longer fool yourself into thinking that you were productive when you actually spent more time than you thought on “distracting” websites.
The positives include more than just simply seeing your split between productive and unproductive time. Like I said earlier, Rescue Time identifies and separates your websites into categories. Each category has a measure of how much time you took on them. In this way, you can even get an incredible handle on what you’re spending time on. For example, you can see that you spent a long time on research and learning instead of actually tackling a project.
Rescue Time has very few downsides, to be perfectly honest. Like most of the tools on this list, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Any possible complaints really come out of its initial idea and the filtering tool for designating websites as distracting/productive.
While Rescue Time’s AI does a fairly good job at figuring out whether something is distracting or productive, sometimes it can get tripped up. These aren’t major mistakes, and usually you can tell why Rescue Time labelled it incorrectly. For instance, I sometimes go onto websites like Deloitte Insights to read for fun, which takes time away from my work. However, Rescue Time finds Deloitte.com to a “very productive” site, which it really isn’t for me. This isn’t Rescue Time’s fault— Deloitte definitely is normally considered a productive site— so it isn’t a big con. Also, you have the ability to manually adjust the sites to “productive” or “distracting,” so you can fix these misunderstandings if that’s the case.
Insight is a purely site-tracking tool that does exactly what you would expect! Rescue Time and Productivity Tracker had a lot of different bells and whistles on it. Meanwhile, Insight is very simple and easy to understand. It tracks how much time you spent on each website, and then displays it to you via a streamlined bar graph.
The simplicity of this extension is simply beautiful! It is a great tool for understanding your division of time. You can see if you’re spending too much time on Facebook, or if you’re on task for most of your workday.
Additionally, Insight is made by Freedom, which also has a suite of productivity tools. These other tools have capabilities such as blocking time-sink sites. This means that Insight has strong integration possibilities with other potential extensions we might’ve already recommended to help you make the most of your time.
Now, in terms of using Insight over extensions such as Rescue Time, the lack of other functions for this tool makes the case hard. Like I said, it is clean and easy to use. However, Insight simply doesn’t have anything to set itself apart. Rescue Time already can track time by website, but it goes a step further. As a result, Insight may feel a little bit empty. However, this is in no way a knock on Insight, considering that it does exactly what it needs to do.
Time Management Tools
The last type of extensions I will talk about is the “time management” tool, which is very different from earlier time-tracking programs. By time management, I basically just mean “Pomodoro technique” tools, which is the well-documented system of working for 25 minutes and taking a break for 5. The following extensions are different ways of keeping you on track for the Pomodoro.
Strict Workflow is the first Pomodoro timer we have on this list. Basically, this tool is quite self-explanatory: you turn it on when you work, which allows you follow the Pomodoro pace during working. It has been proven through studies to be the most effective pace for working, so this is one strong way to manage your time.
The strongest aspect of Strict Workflow is its site blocking capabilities. Unlike most of the other Pomodoro trackers on this list, Strict Workflow allows you to block sites while you’re in “work mode.”
Strict Workflow has two main cons. First, its design is a bit clunky, so if you care about tackling time management in an aesthetic way this might not be the best candidate.
The more pressing matter at hand is that there’s no dashboard for this extension. As you’ll see down the list, the other apps on this list have some way of breaking down your productivity: showing how long you’ve worked and how much time you put in.
Focus To Do is very similar to Strict Workflow, except it has an addition with its to-do list features. Not only does it track Pomodoro, but it also provides you with options for inputting tasks or projects you have to work on. Then it allows you to activate a Pomodoro timer for each task. This is a strong integration and allows you to track time worked on each task.
First and foremost, the integration of to-do-list with Pomodoro timer is a synergistic one. The interface of Focus to Do is clean and streamlined. Being able to see how much time you’ve spent on a task, as well as actively work on these tasks in an effective manner with Pomodoro techniques, is actually quite ingenuous. In addition, there’s a dashboard that tells you how much time you’ve spent working and how many tasks you’ve completed. This can be very useful as well in keeping tabs on your progress.
First and foremost, there is no website blocking service on this Pomodoro extension. As a result, you might find yourself distracted even during work time. That would defeat the purpose of the extension, but Focus To Do doesn’t have a surefire way to keep you accountable.
Additionally, the To-Do-list may be a great idea, but it’s a little too simplistic. As an example, there’s no way to actually put a due date or time. The To-Do-list is split into different tabs like “Due Today,” “Tomorrow,” and then “Upcoming” and “Someday”. The vagueness of the last two can cause a bit of an issue, especially when planning for down the line. As a result, your mileage may vary in its effectiveness. I recommend that you continue utilizing a separate to-do list somewhere else.
Key Takeaways: Which Tool Should You use to Keep Track of Work Time?
Ultimately, each of these tools are similar within their own category, but different overall. The reason I listed out their pros and cons was so you, as the reader, could come to a better educated decision about what extension to go with. Of course, I believe four or five of these extensions might be extremely useful. However, it’s important to not go overboard. Figure out which extension would suit you, and then go for it! You can’t go wrong with any of these.