Losing track of time? Try these rapid (and free) time trackers

Lewis Ashman
A keyboard, post it notes and an earphone

Keep losing track of your work? Drowning in tasks and can’t see the project for the trees? Do you crave an accurate, easy measurement of how long you’re spending on something? Well, you seriously need time tracking in your life.

We’re with you. As a small team with big dreams we’re obsessed with time management. Time trackers don’t just measure time, they also help you organise your work and your life, and some give you handy stats, a clear overview and invoicing functions into the bargain.

The good news is there are so many time tracking solutions these days, the only excuse left for failing at time management is having to try them all out yourself.

Luckily, we’ve done that for you – and selected the best time trackers out there right now. They’re all free, and so useful the memories of using a smartphone stopwatch to tackle your to-do list will make you laugh and cry.

Toggl | toggl.com

Mobile and tablet app (iOS & Android), browser extension (Chrome & Firefox) and web app

Toggl is the time tracker to beat, and has a great free offer. The web app is superior to the extension or mobile app, and is all you really need to master your time. With a ‘basic plan’ you won’t get the invoicing feature or advanced reporting, but you will get a wonderfully clear overview of everything you might want to keep track of, as well as detailed summaries and a breakdown of what the other togglers on your team are up to. Basically, the Toggl timer is the best in the business.

Still not sure? Check out this excellent review by Time Doctor.

Get it if… all you want to do is track your work and break it down into projects and tasks

Don’t get it if… you want to invoice without paying a dime

Harvest | getharvest.com

Mobile and tablet app (iOS & Android), browser extension (Chrome & Safari) and web app

Harvest is clearly more than just a timer, but as a single user on the free plan you can only track two separate projects – that said, within these you can create multiple workstreams. On the up side, even as a free user Harvest lets you generate invoices and record expenses quickly and easily. By default the time is tracked in decimal form rather the standard analogue hours and minutes (though you can change this), giving clarity to your invoicing. Unlike Toggl, though, Harvest is all about the project, as you are invited to set up in detail before hitting ‘go’. You can synch across your devices reasonably well but, ultimately – again – the web app is king.

Get it if… invoices are your priority, and if you’re more about the bigger picture than the ticking clock

Don’t get it if… you want to create more than two projects without paying for the privilege

TopTracker | toptal.com/tracker

Desktop app (iOS, Windows & more) and web app

TopTracker is simple, effective, and absolutely free. Toptal, the team behind it, aren’t charging for it at all right now – so what you see is what you get. With TopTracker you don’t get anything for your phone, which might be nice if you feel that you’re already drowning in undeletable apps. The desktop app is more convenient than using a web browser, but you can’t do without the web app for getting an overview of your work – so you will be switching between windows from time to time to get the most out of this one. TopTracker has a refreshingly clear interface, and you can collaborate with others and subdivide your tasks and projects to your heart’s content.

Get it if… you want a desktop app, and if the sky’s the limit for how many projects you’re taking on

Don’t get it if… you want to use your phone to track time

ATracker | wonderapps.se/atracker

Mobile and tablet app (iOS & Android)

ATracker blazed a trail on iOS but is now available for Android devices too. It’s free to download and use (if you don’t mind a little ad banner along the bottom of the screen), and offers a swish technicolour breakdown of your day. You’re invited to track absolutely everything in your life, from time at the gym to how long you’re spending at the dinner table – but on the free plan you can edit these defaults and set up a maximum of five projects. Unlock the full range of features for a one-off price ($4.99), giving you unlimited projects, smarter reporting and no ads. ATracker is very affordable to upgrade and, if you only have time for apps that look the part and don’t just act the part, it’ll fit right in.

Get it if… you want to track your entire life from your phone

Don’t get it if… you want a synched experience across multiple devices (and something to invoice with)

Honourable mentions

We couldn’t forget to tell you about the pioneering work of our Nordic neighbours, Timely, the self-styled vikings of time management. Timely only offers a free trial, not a free service – so after 14 days you’re out on your ear or giving up your gold. (Look out for the forthcoming Memory AI (currently in beta), a fiendishly clever-looking automated time management system).

But if you don’t trust marauding medieval warriors with advice on how to find serenity in your schedule, then WiseTime and Hours are probably the sensible, straightlaced kind of guys you’re looking for. WiseTime offers a demo and 30 days of free trial on their software before you have to start paying – and it runs in the background, so you can either create manual entries or just sit back and let the measurements roll in. Hours is only available on iPhone, Apple Watch and online, but offers a clean, reliable tracking platform, with timeline, storage and reminders. You can try out with a 31 day trial.


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