Saturday, September 1, 2012

Emergent Task Timing

NEW: 1.0.5 Released

After 6 years of being free of timesheets I recently returned to consulting work and found myself having to deal with not one, but two timesheet systems. I remember dealing with them in the past. If you don't fill them in right away, you find yourself a week later trying to remember what you did. Sometimes even remembering what you did today is tough. 

But this isn't about timesheets. It's about personal organization and productivity in general. A key part of every methodology I employ is visibility. Visibility and pace. I found that without some form of pace setting, your mind can easily wander, interruptions seem to have no cost and tasks end up taking longer than they should. In the past I've used music and even movie audio to set pace.

Making time visible or audible can have a dramatic effect on productivity and awareness of where your time goes.  

So before I started my first day in my new role, I immediately sought after a solution. I was familiar with Pomodoro and had used it in the past. But it wasn't going to work for me this time. The work pattern didn't fit that particular methodology. I wanted 15 minute increments and I wanted something to track the total time I spent each day in a more visible way than most Pomodoro tools naturally offer.

I was really lucky to stumble upon David Seah's website. David came up with the concept of Emergent Task Timing, and offers paper based solutions. There are at least a couple of web based solutions too, but none of them met my needs. So I wrote a desktop version that I find much more handy with features like:

  • Support for multiple days (the two online versions were "today only")
  • Recurring tasks for things like daily meetings
  • 15 minute chime (optional)
  • "Not Today" warning to avoid accidental time entry on the wrong day
  • Double billing collision detection
  • Configurable start time and hours per day
  • Reordering of tasks with drag and drop
  • Hashtags for multiple sub-totals of time categories
  • Export totals to CSV to help share your day or integrate with other systems
  • Updates 1.0.5 (Nov 9th, 2012)
    • 16 hour days
    • Earlier start times
    • Double-click to delete
    • Shift-Enter to add a new task
    • Shift-Click-Drag to highlight multiple cells quickly
    • Double-click weekday to quickly return to "today" after navigating
    • See note below about signing certificate change before upgrading
As for the timesheets, they become a piece of cake.  I simply copy the time that I've tracked with a good degree of accuracy, as well as retrospect on my day at the same time. If you have goals such as billable hours per day, or Zero Waste Days™, you can use hashtags to tally up subcategories of time to help ensure that you meet your daily goal.

You can download it now to give it a try:

Download the Task Timer 1.0.5 
(Mac and PC compatible, Adobe AIR required)

*** Note: If you are replacing an installation older than November 9th, 2012, then please uninstall the old version before installing this new one.  The keys used for signing have changed, and therefore AIR will not allow you to upgrade it.  Your data will not be lost.

On Windows 7 your data files are stored in C:\Users\[username]\TaskTimer
On Mac your data files are stored in [userhome]/TaskTimer


  1. Started using this today. It's the bomb. I'll be recommending it to the rest of the team next week. :)

  2. I also started using this today. Very nice. However, I often work pretty odd hours (and sometimes even more than 12), so I don't really like the limitations on Start Time (6-10) and Hours Today (8-12). Also, I would personally prefer a delete confirmation (or an undo) - an errant click could easily wipe out a task. But thanks for a very useful piece of free software!

  3. Looking forward to using this--I'm still using the original desktop app.

  4. Brilliant. It's simple, super easy and on top of that exactly what I need.

  5. If you plan to make it multilanguage I can help with russian localization.

  6. Really nice, but why do you use 0.25? I understand that this is percents, but why not to use 15min?

  7. Thank you for this useful tool, A feature i would like to be added is an hourly rate input box so it can automatically multiply by the billable hours.

    Again thank you for sharing!.

  8. Very nice, would like a settings option to change the chime interval.

    Using a tag of #am and #pm and the 12hr setting can easily record time for any hour of the day, would be nice if support for @am and @pm allowed the time bubble to be a different colour in am to the pm (doesn't turn red, unless overlap in task in same 12hr period)

    Would also like an tag that allowed time recording in 5 min period's, bubble broken into 3 sections, each color-able separately. Means that 25min time periods with breaks can be recorded. A setting on this tag that is set to overlap no, will cause any other filled 15min time bubble in the same time period to auto break into sections, with the other sections colored.

  9. Absolutely amazing. I wish I could write such wonderful programs.

  10. I've been using it the last couple days and like it a lot. I like the visual display of your time and I like the 15 minute chime as a reminder.

    The ability to move columns around is nice (eg. moving the Totals column next to the Task Title for easy reference). Though I noticed a bug that if you make a column move that affects the placement of the Task Title column (like moving Total before the Task Title), when you add a new task the Task Title column is no longer editable, but the one put in it's place.

  11. It looks great. I'll give it a shot. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Hi! Thank's for programm! Is it possible to add more hours to the schedule? I need about 16.

  13. Solid App. Few Suggestions -

    1) Limitations on Hours and Start Time - Difficult for people who work odd hours

    2) The added tasks are saved only if they are started. If the app is closed and restarted, the added tasks which are not started are not listed. It would have been helpful to plan the day by adding tasks at the beginning of the day and then arrange and mark them as the day progresses

    3) Some means of alloting the time for each task beforehand could have been very useful for planning the day.

    Once again thank you very much for a great app.

  14. I'm really appreciating it, thanks. The only thing that's not working for me is being constrained by 12 hours 8 - 8. I'd like to be able to choose up to 24 hours ....

  15. Been using this a few days now and I would really like to see earlier start (5am) and more hours. I am trying to work, leisure and study so I can fine tune my time planner (budget) for the 3 commitments. Currently I add a line called everything below this is +5 hours :-) The hashtags are useful but once you get beyond a certain limit the task timers width starts stretching inelegantly. Otherwise I like it and the 15 min chime is great to keep me mindful about what I should be doing now (not procrastinating!). Thanks good app.

  16. Started using this today. Its great. Will update once again once Ive used it a bit more. I was wondering if you think its a good idea to mix in the task ninja planner from david seah, into this planner. as an addition below or per task along with time slots. Id love to be able to visually kill task ninjas

  17. Clinton,
    Thanks for this App. I especially like the hashtag feature, as well as the 15-minute chime. I don't know if you are planning on spending any more time on this project, but I second Todd's request for the ability to set a longer work day, as I sometimes work a morning/evening schedule, taking the afternoon off.
    In aany event, thanks again.

  18. Sorry for the delay in responding and publishing comments... :-/ It was a really busy month! Thanks for the feedback. There's a new version 1.0.5 available.

  19. Clinton - thanks for the app. I used it one day and already recommended it to my team half way through the day I found it so useful. My comments are the same as some of the other people’s here.

    1) Start time as early as 12:00a
    2) Allow for 24 hour day as I often work split shifts where I put in a few hours, take a few hours off and then work a few more hours.

    Everything else worked so smoothly and I was able to fill in my time sheet much more accurately because I used the hashtags and it totaled up my time for each hashtag so nicely.

  20. Clinton - thanks for the app. I used it one day and already recommended it to my team half way through the day I found it so useful. My comments are the same as some of the other people’s here.

    1. Start time as early as 12:00a
    2. Allow for 24 hour day as I often work split shifts where I put in a few hours, take a few hours off and then work a few more hours.

    Everything else worked so smoothly and I was able to fill in my time sheet much more accurately because I used the hashtags and it totaled up my time for each hashtag so nicely.


  21. I've been using this app ever since it was released and it continues to do a fantastic job of helping me track my activities and stay focused. I've received a bunch of comments from coworkers wondering what it is and just today one of them decided to use the app himself because he said he needed to start getting real work done. Kudos!

  22. I like it and have recommended it to several friends, but wanted to second the comment earlier regarding the limitation on the start time. I am a freelancer and it's not unusual at all for me to start working 11am, 12, 1, 2, or 3... It would be handy not to have to start every day at 10.

  23. I'm not sure if I have a buggy installation or if it doesn't work on Windows 8. I enter tasks and the when I move to a different day or close the program, everything disappears. I looked in the folder in C and it is empty.

  24. @Pam: I unfortunately do not have Windows 8, and therefore cannot test it. :-/ I wouldn't expect it to behave any differently, but it's possible. I hope Microsoft didn't move the user folder again... but it should be saving files in: C:\Users\[your_username]\TaskTimer

  25. Hey I have been using this task timer for the past 3 months and it's worked for me amazingly.

    I absolutely love it.

    I just have 2 suggestions: Maybe you can tell me if there are settings I can change for these
    1) when I set the sound, I'd like it to remember it the next time I open it.
    Specifically, I keep it off always, because the ding makes me jump in my chair. I switch it off everyday when I start. I'd like to switch it off permanently.
    2) The export property saves the over all conclusion of time used. But I'd like to be able to save the info from the bubbles as used as well. So I can analyse my time used and my break cycles at a later stage.

    In any case, it's great.Thanks!

  26. @lighttightlife: Thanks for the positive feedback. I wrote this app very quickly and indeed it lacks some features. I'd open-source it, but quite frankly I'm embarrassed by this code. Haha. :-) It's stable, just not pretty. The two features that you've asked for are fairly simple though, and I might find some time to add/change them. My biggest regret is using a binary format for the saved files. Had I used a text based format (XML, JSON, CSV... whatever), it would have solved the export problem in one shot. I'll see what I can do in the coming months. I tend to do more hobby coding in the winter. Cheers. :-)

  27. Thank you Dave Seah, its a great idea!
    Super work Clinton! brilliantly done! thumbs up!

  28. This is a great app! Any thoughts of Open Sourcing this? I would really like to be able to export more than one days worth of time tracking data at a time. Or is there some other way to read these .tasks files?

  29. Thanks for this! Please make it open source, I'd love to tinker.

  30. Downloaded AdobeAIR.dmg and TaskTimer.air, but when I try to install the TaskTimer app, I am presented with: "The application could not be installed because the installer file is damaged. Try obtaining a new installer file from the application author." Any suggestions?