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Time Management Apps, and How to Better Manage your Software Projects

Time management is crucial. It’s the only measure that is completely consistent. No matter how much you’d like, you can’t go back in time, you can’t skip time, you can’t get more of it; you have what you have. Time equals money, and money equals business. For that reason, time management is probably the most important measure in your team and organization.

Even though we all know that it’s important to properly manage our time, our own and that of our peers, a proper time management setup is still not very well-defined in many businesses. People probably kinda have an idea of where their time is going, if they’ve felt productive a given day, and if they made the right prioritization. But what if you need more accurate and reliable stats to base your analysis upon? What if you’re a team of 10+, or maybe 100+ people, that needs to run a profitable business? That’s what you need time management tools for.

If you’re working with software projects (or, IT projects in general), you’re in great luck. Software development projects are actually one of the easiest types of projects to time manage. Simply, because using a computer most of the time allows for other software to track your time doing different tasks, from your favorite code editor, to design tools like Zeplin, to GitHub, GitLab and Slack. Whatever native or web-based apps you’re running, time tracking software can easily pick it up and bring the stats to you.

Many of those time tracking tools are doing their job very well, but what is true for most of them, is that they don’t really do much more than time tracking and reporting. That’s why we love APIs. Especially public APIs. They allow for integrations; so, that you can keep your favorite tracking tool, while also bringing all the good stuff (i.e. data) into another tool where you can do even more with it.

For instance, using this data Forecast can assist you in improving your estimates to better manage your business resources and properly allocate team members to the right projects during scheduling. Using artificial intelligence and machine-learning in this regard is especially useful, since the system can automatically grab all of your time registrations, combine it with other data, like the type of task, labels attached to it, people assigned, etc. Thereby, the unique algorithm will be able to provide you with a better and better estimate the more you use it. An estimate that is super useful for forecasting and projecting your budget, time and scope.

Down below we will list some of the time tracking tools that we already integrate with, along with a short introduction to how you get started with them, while at the same time utilizing the power of Forecast.

If you’re not quite sure who we are yet, this one is for you…
Forecast is a professional services automation tool that comes complete with kanban board for issues and user stories, automated budgets for managing your project finances, schedule for managing allocations and assigned work, time reporting connected with your project budgets and the rate cards of your team, and real-time customizable and shareable insight reports. More specifically, we strive to make management as easy and “fun” as possible by making it less time-consuming and more effortless. Ultimately, leaving you with less daily struggle and more time for all the important stuff, like making the right decisions and being creative.

Forecast has time management built-in, in the sense that you can track and report time directly on cards (i.e. issues / user stories). It’s pretty simple, you either start a timer overall and choose the card afterwards, or you start a timer directly on a card and stop it when you’re done.

This is what many successful businesses do, but if it still not quite what you want, there are other tools out there that might help you instead. We integrate with some of them already for automatic sync to Forecast, while others provide you the data, but will not automatically import to Forecast. Thus requiring a bit of manual work.

Harvest
Harvest is one of the most popular time reporting and invoicing tools out there. We integrate directly with the Harvest platform, and thus everything should be automatically synced between both Forecast and Harvest.

Harvest, similar to Forecast, lets you start a timer on a project / task, and at the end register the time, report, and create an invoice based on the reported time. With the integration enabled, it doesn’t matter which tool you use to report your time, it will always be sent back and forth between both.

Toggl
Toggl is very similar to Harvest, and is another of the most popular time reporting tools on the market right now. The process is pretty much the same as Harvest, you start a timer, report it and invoice your clients, internal- or external projects. Our integration with Toggl is still underway, but if you’re especially interested in this feature, please let us know through the chat in the lower right-hand corner of your screen.

RescueTime
While time tracking in Harvest, Toggl and Forecast is very similar, RescueTime is a bit different. RescueTime is a tool and an app you install on your computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. It tracks your usage of other software, apps and web services. The RescueTime app tracks your native software usage, while website tracking requires an additional extension / plugin for your web browser. You login with your account, and every day you can see how productive you’ve been, what you’ve spent most time on, and a report on your general time usage.

Now, we don’t have an integration for RescueTime yet, so this will require some manual work from your team’s side. Daily or weekly, you have to look into the tasks you’ve been working on, and combine it with your insights in RescueTime. Then report time in Forecast based on this data.

RescueTime is a bit more automatic in terms of tracking, but at the same time it requires that you’re aware of only keeping your apps and websites in the foreground when you’re actually working on them to avoid misleading stats. Moreover, it requires that you look into the data from RescueTime, and register it yourself in Forecast.

Benefits of using time management apps
There are many benefits of time tracking - overall some of the benefits include:

  • Personal insights into your own workflow
  • Business insights into your team’s workflow
  • Increased productivity
  • Higher effectivity and cost efficiency
  • More transparent
  • Great tool for reflection

In general, it helps you reflect on your own and your project teams, see what’s going on, maybe make some changes to increase productivity, etc., and at the same time by connecting your time reporting with a more comprehensive resource- and project management tool, like Forecast, you can easily manage your business and bill your clients.

Managing time using one of these time tracking applications can be an effective way to manage your schedule. One of the biggest benefits to using these is that you can document you and your team’s workload. A recommendation for individuals and teams would be to make sure to switch notifications on, so that you don’t forget to log your entries. Making sure you log all of those work moments across the day and chase-up any you’ve missed will help to craft out a view of your day and week that will be helpful for boosting productivity. - Francesco D'Alessio, Founder at Keep Productive

Reflect on your workflow
Additionally, tracking time using one of those time management apps can also be a great eye-opener, and help you reflect on where your time is actually going. Some overall questions you could ask yourself on a regular basis when reflecting on your time registrations could be:

  • Does the time spent on this specific task align with the actual importance?
  • Or, could your time have been prioritized better?
  • Did the task work towards a wider goal, e.g. business mission?
  • What did the task actually contribute with to the project?
  • Did it work towards any of your personal and/or career goals?

Based on the insights generated on the foundation of your data inputs, you’ll probably be able to make better and more objective decisions on your projects and time. Time is money, and time is life.

If you have any questions regarding this, or anything else, we’re always ready to chat with you through the button in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. Additionally, you can book a personal meeting with one of us from the customer success team; just select a date and time that fits your schedule and we’ll be in touch!

Kasper Nymand
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Kasper Nymand
I'm Kasper, and I'm doing Marketing at Forecast. Besides that, I really enjoy experimenting with different projects to see where my imagination brings me.
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