Quick planning with plain text import
Over the years I have tried and posted my views on a handful of apps that attempt a very basic goal requiring a lot of manual input from the user. One of the first apps pitched to me truly designed from the ground up to take advantage of iOS 7 is a simple time tracker. The difference? The ability to simplify the amount of work you need to put into it to keep it updated.
Vadim Shpakovski's debut app Timelytics tries to tackle the big problem in all time tracking applications: remembering to stop the timer once the task is completed. His solution is as simple as creating a list of general activities such as eating, family, shopping or work that follow in a linear order. The end result is something like a school timetable that should allow you to understand how time was spent.
His approach is so simple that it made me shoot an email asking for some usage scenarios; it turns out that simplicity translates very well in adaptability, offering different uses rather than restricting you to a single workflow. I gather most people will begin the day creating an activity: the app's interface already displays the current time for you to add an activity slot quickly. Once the first activity of the day is over and you go, lets say exercise; you can add a new slot for gym or sports.
Simply select today's date, tap on the empty area and enter the session editing area. Adding a new session reveals a colourful purple screen with the start date rounded in chunks of five minutes, a field to enter the activity name of the option to pick from the recent ones on the bottom. You'll find the keyboard to enter the time superior to the default iOS UIDatePicker, which for the rest of us is the rolodex you use to set an alarm in the Clock app, for example.
By adding a second item to the list, the first activity automatically stops. Removing the chore to tap on a timer to add an end time is an advantage, but like any other time tracking app, it leaves you worried about letting a timer running as 'work' when you are actually taking a shower. Whenever you go for a short break by the way, you should stop adding a blank activity.
Planning ahead and optimisation
Then there's the option to enter all the stuff you want to get done in the day and give them some rough time limits. I found myself organising my time for the day like this — it's not really in the scope of Timelytics but I really like how the interface presents the tasks. When completed, the day view displays the time it has taken to complete and the time of the day, like a very basic Gantt chart of sorts.
Now for my favourite feature that is so hidden I decided to include a video to illustrate it. To speed up the data entry in Timelytics, you can import plain text lists to paste directly into the app. Using the correct format HH:MM Name like "10:00 Study" Timelytics recognises each entry as an individual session. This is extremely useful to put together something quickly in any text-editing app — even Mail will do. I like this method to plan the day ahead when working on projects that require the previous task to be finished to start the next one.
According to the developer the typical user will create an activity for the day, switching to a new one by adding a new entry. At the end of the day, or better, end of the week using the app, the data collected will allow you to identify those unwanted bottlenecks in your schedule. Next week, keeping track of activities following the same rules, you should be able to have data showing how your time spent in certain things has improved.
If you want to get really anal into analysing how time is spent, the app offers several chart representations, which work best if you are consistent naming the activities and assign them a colour. If you want to get really really anal you can also export as plain text or just email to yourself the data and paste it on a spreadsheet.
In the end, Timelytics works best as a way to track how time is spent during the day and make decisions based on data. The app is flexible enough you can set it up to track your projects for work with minimal set up. In fact, the ease entering data could make it a very compelling alternative to other more complex alternatives leaning to invoicing or project management.