How much time do American’s waste on the internet every day?

“I need to start feeling shame for time wasted on the Internet.”

I saw this in my Twitter feed this morning. It was a friend that posted it. My initial reaction to this was: “Wow, I wonder how much time I waste online.” I mean, do I actually get any value out of social networks? I’m sure that question has been asked a thousand times over.

So, what is my recommendation to this friend? My answer is: track your time religiously. Personally, I track all of my time using a timer-based app installed on my computer. On a constant basis I can see what I am doing, and it’s right in front of me.

Since I only earn revenue when I’m billing for my time, there’s a constant pressure to perform. Since I also work for myself, and don’t have someone I call a boss, I am accountable to myself. I have to keep myself in check, otherwise at the end of the month there’s no income to report.

So, that’s my recommendation. I track my time throughout the day, and I do track both my billable time, and my unbillable time. This helps me see how much time I did waste (and what percent was billable). My billable utilization is an incredibly useful tool in determining several factors:

  1. It helps me quote future jobs
  2. It helps me know what I will likely be able to produce next year based on hourly rates
  3. Helps me understand how much work I can get done in a month (useful for estimating)
  4. Keeps me motivated

I highly recommend tracking your time. If you need a time tracking system, check out this useful list of time tracking apps.

Harvest Time Tracking Tips

Here’s a 5 minute long video from the folks at Harvest detailing some of the nuances of time tracking on the Harvest platform. Learn more about Harvest here.

I’ve been using Harvest since October, 2012, and love it! I create over 500 separate time entries every month by tracking my time religiously. I love tracking my time, and it makes me more productive. It’s like having a little boss over there telling me I should keep on task, and be productive.

I use the Mac desktop client, which you can learn about on the Harvest web site. A couple of interesting things to note about the Mac app:

  1. You can minimize it and track time exclusively from the menu bar at the top of the screen, if you want.
  2. I usually keep the window open, which gives me greater ability to start and stop timers, edit descriptions, and see the rest of my time entries for the day.
  3. Speaking of day: it gives you a whole-view of your day! So, at the end of the day, you can review all of your time entries and see exactly where your day went, and how many hours you worked.

Things I wish the Mac app did:

  • Displayed how much money I have earned that day. While it does show me the hours I have worked on that particular day, it doesn’t show me the revenue earned. That would be nice, although I can easily gather that information on the Harvest web app.
  • Remembered the last time entry description for each project category (I’ve written about this before).
  • Show me the gaps in my day. Currently, Harvest only shows me time entries, but doesn’t tell me that I missed a 15 minute block of time between two time entries.

And here is a quick video detailing their iPhone app, which works really well. I’ve used it a bunch of times to compliment the Mac App.

My favorite thing about Harvest is the desktop application for Mac. Ever since converting to using a Mac a little over two years ago I’ve longed for a native desktop application, and Harvest really delivers.

It did take me a little bit of time to get used to the differences in Harvest. I’ve emailed them with recommendations, and even posted some of them here, but I’ve gotten used to the way it works and it works great with my workflow.

Anyways, that’s my 5 minute review. I must say, if it wasn’t for the Mac app, I’d have looked at using a different system. It’s critical to my usage.