Time trackers are popular apps these days, with each one aiming to increase productivity, provide greater accuracy in recording billable hours, and simplify the process of generating reports. For small businesses, entrepreneurs and independent contractors such as myself, an effective time-tracking program can be an invaluable tool, and finding the perfect one is no easy quest.
OfficeTime has entered the game, promising all of the above and more. Having seemingly understood the “something for everybody” maxim, the developers have created a system that is extraordinarily simple to implement, yet can be more involved for those who want, well, more. Come on, I’ll show you how it works.
Time is tracked according to Sessions, which means when you sit down to begin working on something, you’ll tap New Session. A window will appear that shows the time tracked; the start date and start time; as well as fields for the Project, Category and Notes.
For a brand-new session, the defaults will be: 0 minutes of time tracked; the current date and time for the start information; and empty for the Project, Category and Notes fields.
You’ll notice, however, that you can adjust all of these. Why? Well, say you actually began an ongoing project for a client yesterday — you met with the client for a consultation, for example — but didn’t record those minutes or hours in OfficeTime. From this window, you can adjust the start date and time, and duration of a session. Now, as you move forward on the project, the time you’ve dedicated to it will be up-to-date in OfficeTime.
Similarly, these adjustments could be helpful for adding a session that you began and finished in the past. Maybe you prepared some last-minute marketing collateral over the weekend and want to make sure that time is tracked. Again, OfficeTime makes it simple to add a session that occurred at an earlier date and time, as long as you have an idea of the time you spent on it.
Projects are defined by OfficeTime as jobs for yourself or for clients, and Categories are tasks that you can assign a rate to. For example, a project could be a trifold brochure that falls into the Category of Brochure at the rate of $100.00 per hour. It’s important to note that OfficeTime doesn’t allow for duplicate categories, so you can’t have two Categories named Editing that track time at different rates; you have to name each Category something unique (for example, Fiction Editing and Nonfiction Editing) in order to use different rates.
So while you will want to give your Projects names that make the tasks easily identifiable, the Categories you may want to create with the idea in mind of using them over and over. If you’re a freelancer, your Categories can be viewed as your list of services and rates. From there, it’s just a matter of assigning your various Projects to the appropriate one.
What you enter in the Notes field is completely up to you — due dates, a contact person’s information, any special instructions you need to keep in mind, etc.
Once you’ve entered or adjusted a session’s details, and are ready to begin working and tracking your time, press Start. The task now appears on the lefthand third of the screen, under Projects, and your time is being tracked on the timesheet, on the right two-thirds of the screen. In the iPhone version of the app, you lose the ability to view both your Timesheet and the navigation sidebar simultaneously, but at least any Sessions currently running do appear at the bottom of the home screen on the iPhone.
Keep in mind that OfficeTime’s default setting assumes you will always be working on only one project at a time, which means that if you start or resume a Session while you have another Session running will pause the first one and begin the second. You can allow for multiple timers in Settings.
Your Timesheet separates Sessions according to the day, and you’ll have to figure out what works best for your needs — you can either always start and stop the same Session (which you created on the day you began the Project), or you can start a new Session for the Project every day you work on it. This is a great example of how users can customize their OfficeTime experience to their specific needs.
Also, if you’re like me and round your time to the nearest 15-minute increment, you’ll notice that OfficeTime has provided a way to accommodate for this. Bringing up the details screen for a session and tapping on the time will allow you to make adjustments to the Start, End and Duration times. For example, if you start a session six minutes past the hour, you can adjust the Start time for the top of the hour. Or, if you round your time to the nearest hour, you can easily adjust this by selecting Duration and clicking “01h 00m.”
With OfficeTime you can also keep track of your expenses for a Project. To add an expense, tap the expense icon at the top of the Timesheet, or on the sidebar on the left. Fill the given fields with the appropriate information and then click Done.
The expense will now appear in your Timesheet, indicated by a dollar sign instead of a play button on the left, and the expense amount on the right. To edit the expense, tap on it to call up its details and make adjustments as necessary.
Editing Categories, Projects and Sessions
Adding, deleting or making changes to Categories and Projects is a snap. Let’s start with Categories. On the sidebar, tapping Categories will present you with an all-inclusive list. At the top of the sidebar, click Edit. Now you can delete or rename a Category, update a Category’s rate, and change the order in which they are listed (default is alphabetical). Deleting a Category will leave any Projects associated with it unassigned.
Editing a Project follows the same process. Tap Projects on the home screen, and then Edit. From here you can reorder, delete, rename, update the Category or add Notes. Remember that deleting a Project will delete all its Sessions. To delete a Session, tap Edit at the top of the Timesheet. To delete a Session, tap Edit at the top of the Timesheet.
Tapping Reports in the sidebar will present you with some useful totals and other information. Here you can see how much money you’re spending / earning, which project(s) may be running over their budgets, and how time is being spent.
Just below New Session and New Expense is a dropdown menu you can use to see totals for the Day, Week, Month or All Time. Tapping any Project under Reports will reveal everything that makes up that Project, allowing you to get an overview of where the time and money for it has gone, make any corrections, and so on.
Exporting and Syncing
Reports and other information can be exported via email from OfficeTime on your iPad. Tap the Export icon at the top of the screen you wish to export. You will be prompted to choose a format (Excel, Numbers, Regular Text), and then you will be asked which side you wish to export — either the Left Side Summary, or the Right Side Details.
After you make your selection, an email draft with the information already attached in the format you chose will appear. All you have to do is enter the recipient’s email address and press Send. Remember that times which have been exported will not appear in hours/minutes format, but rather, decimals representative of hours; in other words, four hours and seven minutes becomes 4.13 in the exported file. You can always change the default export format later in Settings.
OfficeTime can also share and sync everything with your Mac or PC. For those who are looking for additional features and more involved reporting, the desktop version of OfficeTime can be purchased and downloaded for a one-time fee of $47 (no additional subscription necessary). Information will then be synced from your device(s) to your desktop any time OfficeTime is running on your device and desktop simultaneously. Note that if you have OfficeTime on both your iPhone and iPad, they will not communicate through each other, but can still be synced to each other indirectly through your desktop.
You don’t have to dive in without testing the waters first: A free trial version of OfficeTime is available. It doesn’t allow for exporting or syncing, and limits you to two projects and three categories, but should still provide a potential user with a good feel for the software.
If you purchase the full version of OfficeTime after giving the trial a spin, you will be asked whether or not you want all data from the free version imported into your full version. You don’t have to worry about losing a thing.
The low cost of OfficeTime, coupled with its ease of use and simple yet powerful reporting make it an excellent and attractive time-keeping option. If you give this a try and your productivity doesn’t go up, I’ll be shocked.
All things considered, I prefer using this app on the iPad, since I value the ability to have the Timesheet always present, with the navigation sidebar available for editing or adding projects on the fly. That said, the iPhone version is just as easy to use, if not easier, and incredibly handy, since I always have my iPhone on me, but don’t always carry my iPad. Fortunately, you don’t have to purchase the versions separately, so if you decide to give the mobile app a try, why not download both and see which is most useful to you?