I always like looking at new, or new-to-me, time tracking applications. I have the idea that I, like a lot of people, waste more time than we realize. Whether it’s because I get sidetracked and start checking sports scores instead of working through that backlog of emails, or that I just don’t realize when I’m not working when I should be, I’m sure there’s a lot of time when I “think” I’m doing research, writing or other work, when I’m actually not. To combat this, a good time tracking application would be a good aid, and would make me realize when I’m not doing what I think I’m doing. So I was interested when the other day I noticed a new extension for Google Chrome called Chrome Time Track. I installed it and have been using it sporadically to see what it’s all about.
One thing I need to say up front is that I had misconceptions about what Chrome Time Track was. I’ve used time tracking applications in the past that have been far more powerful, and was mistakenly expecting that. I’ve used applications that – once running – would keep tabs on what programs I used, how long those programs were in front (and not simply minimized in the background), and even what websites I looked at. Those programs are not always simple to run, while Chrome Time Track is. What Chrome Time Track loses in its simplicity, however, is power. And depending on why you want to use Chrome Time Track, that might not be a bad thing.
Using Chrome Time Track really couldn’t be any simpler. Once installed, you’ll see a new icon in your Chrome toolbar. To use Chrome Time Track, simply click this icon, and a new tab opens. This is the Chrome Time Track interface, and be sure not to close Google Chrome while using it, because if you do, all the projects you’re keeping track of will no longer be tracked (until you start up your web browser again, that is). Anyway, once Chrome Time Track is running, click the New Task button. You’ll be able to give your new task a name and when you click to close the task editing interface, there it will be. On the right side of each task entry you’ll see a little icon. Click the icon and Chrome Time Track will start timing that task. Click it again, and the timer stops. You can create as many tasks as you like, and all of them can be running at once.
You can edit any task, or delete it. And honestly, that’s pretty much it. My first reaction was disappointment. I can accomplish pretty much the same thing with a clock, a timer or stopwatch, to be honest. But then I kept thinking, and realized Chrome Time Track does have some good use situations. If you’re doing what I am currently, which is downloading some files, researching a couple articles, and writing a third, then it might be good to figure out how much time each of those takes. Three of the tasks – researching two different articles and writing a third – can’t happen at the same time. But downloading those files takes place during all three of the other projects, until it finishes. Since I’m downloading multiple files from multiple websites, adding together all the lengths of time each file took to download would be a chore, so using Chrome Time Track to track the entire process is a no-brainer. Similarly, I can set up different tasks for all three of my writing or research projects, and as I switch between them, go to Chrome Time Track, turn off the one I was working on, and start the other.
And that’s pretty much it. As mentioned, Chrome Time Track stops between sessions. You can start it, then close the tab and it keeps running and counting in the background, but once you close the last tag and Google Chrome quits, so does Chrome Time Track. When you come back, however, all your tasks will be still be there. On a browser restart, although the tasks are still present, you do need to open up Chrome Time Track in order to start timing again. And when you do, every task that was running when you closed the browser automatically starts again (but again, only after you open the interface). So no, Chrome Time Track isn’t a fancy program; It is simply a program to track what you’re doing right now. It’s not built to track all the tasks of a large project that takes days or weeks to finish. It’s good for tracking shorter projects that all take place in a set amount of time. And for that, it does a good job. As I said, after using Chrome Time Track for a bit, I had to recalibrate my expectations based on what Chrome Time Track really was. It wasn’t what I expected, for sure, but what it is, is pretty good.