Ask HN: How do you track your work hours?

31 points by thinkpad13 2 months ago

Currently I use stopwatch on my desktop pc and pause it whenever I do something that is not work related like randomly reading article/reddit/hn/youtube

iirc I heard that john carmack use a cd player and pause it whenever he does not works

radiojasper 2 months ago
  • phforms 2 months ago

    This. Been using it for more than 6 years for freelance work and never had any issues with it. Also never paid a penny since it has a generous free plan and I never had much use for any of the advanced features. It has a simple desktop app for tracking and I can quickly see my hours on the dashboard with statistics, summaries for specific time periods, filtering, etc.

  • d4rkp4ttern 2 months ago

    This is the best I have found. Also great if you are consulting/freelancing and want to generate reports to attach to an invoice

  • dukeofharen 2 months ago

    Yes, plus one for toggl. I used to track my time in a text file, but this became cluttered very quickly.

admissionsguy 2 months ago

Tracking time was too much hassle for me. If it takes less than 4 hours, I bill half a day, otherwise I bill a full day.

  • 2rsf 2 months ago

    > whenever I do something that is not work related like randomly reading article/reddit/hn/youtube

    Same. Stopping and starting a clock for every little thing is too much of a hassle.

    Do you stop it if you are googling a work related question? when going to have a coffee or the toilets? if you are trying to relax so you will be more productive later? I never had complaints about rounding up hours.

mmillin 2 months ago

Timewarrior ( It makes it super easy to correct mistakes (i.e. forgetting to start/stop tracking), which is pretty critical for me as I'm never 100% on remembering to track

mkl 2 months ago

I use an app called Time Recording:

I track time spent on work broken down into dozens of subtasks, which is really helpful for analysing later and estimating future work. It's easy and quick to switch tasks or retroactively adjust or track time. There are various reports you can view or export as CSV.

bemmu 2 months ago

Been doing solo gamedev since 2020, here’s my time tracking habit.

Goals: make predictable progress each day, get a feel for how long different types of tasks take, and to have guilt-free rest after a day is “done”.

So I decided I’ll aim to work just 3 hours on weekdays, 2 hours on weekends, but I must first write down my current subgoal in a text file and note every time I stop or start.

So this file is full of things like “15:03-15:20, 15:55-16:00 Make minigun emit a puff of steam when it stops”. Conveniently reused as a git commit message. GPT made me a sublime text plugin that adds up the total, and I have inserting current clocktime as a mey binding.

I’m only allowed to work towards that subgoal as fast as I can with no distractions.

The goal must lead to a releasable update, otherwise it does not count. So in my system I’ve defined doing taxes or checking email as not work but a chore (like washing the dishes), to make sure I prioritize releasing stuff.

If I want to check HN or something, then I need to take a proper break instead of semi-working. And since I need to confront this and note it, I’m less likely to do so.

LouisSayers 2 months ago

I use a Google Spreadsheet with columns (Day, Start, Finish, Description, Time, Subtotal).

Each day I adjust the Subtotal for the previous day and put in an entry for the new day.

When I start working I put in an entry into Start, Finish e.g. 3:33pm 3:33pm, and then adjust the Finish time when I stop.

I have a sheet for the month, and when a new month comes around I add up my totals for the previous month, check that the SUM(Subtotal) is the same as the SUM(time col), and then calculate average hours worked per day / week.

I then duplicate the sheet for the next month.

Have been doing this since last year and it works great.


I made a template for anyone interested - here you go

  • foobarbaz33 2 months ago

    I've been doing something similar but with Excel.

    Spreadsheets might be old news but they get the job done for so many things.

mriet 2 months ago

I track time for the following reasons:

- track and optimize productivity

- I have a budget per project

- ensure I work my 40h/week (if I work more or less, my productivity goes down)

- kind of a diary to help me remember what I worked on

- good "backup" where I can see where I actually spent my time on

Additionally, I have a Google sheet that I use to track how many hours a day I in worked.

neeldhara 2 months ago

I used to use the apps atimelogger ( and atracker ( for a year and two years, respectively. I tracked work and certain non-work activities (e.g, sleep and such), and it was very effective. The reports helped with awareness around relative time spent over different projects and such.

While all the tracking was manual, and I tried to do it either in real time or by the end of the day (or at best the next day), it was useful to have some automated time tracking tools for double-checking in recall. For this, I use mostly Timing ( and location tracking on my phone.

Now I use a custom entry system in Obsidian which lets me do more fine-grained reports (e.g, by project) and also has the advantage that I have one app less to worry about. I still have Timing to help with recall though. Some people use Timing exclusively - and it does have several advanced features and a nice UI!

  • vstollen 2 months ago

    Wow, Timing looks really nice!

    It's a bummer that no time tracking App really seems to focus on cross platform support. I've been looking for a time tracking app myself and couldn't find one to support my situation.

    I have: - A Linux desktop - A MacBook - An Android Phone - Offline activities I want to track

    • neeldhara 2 months ago

      Have you tried one of the web-based ones? Like Toggl or Rescue Time? Or manual with a custom setup may be the way to go - e.g, my current time tracking is a bunch of markdown files with YAML front matter keeping track of the specifics, and Obsidian (a cross-platform note-taking app) provides the "UI" for viewing the data from these files in a meaningful way. The cost of setting this up is non-trivial: but worth it if you are in it long term IMO :)

      • vstollen 2 months ago

        I've tried rescue time, but wanted a solution with as little friction to actual tracking as possible.

        So, ideally I'd like to have a one or two click tracking solution which rescue time did not really provide.

codazoda 2 months ago

Although I’m not tracking my time specifically, I did recently look at my first and last login times in Slack. I was surprised to find a lot of days where I logged in very early and very late. I don’t think you can draw a lot of conclusions from these values but they are an interesting personal metric.

Note: As a technical manager I feel strongly that you SHOULD NOT look at these values for your employees. I looked only at my own data.

asdf691111 2 months ago

Why would I track my work hours?

  • jghn 2 months ago

    Some people bill by time.

  • quickthrower2 2 months ago

    I think for some people tracking them for personal view only would let them check they are not working too many hours.

JoeMayoBot 2 months ago

I use an Excel spreadsheet as the central document for each customer. No stopwatch, I'm aware of how much I work and make an entry before stopping work or switching to a different customer. I used to be more granular on recording to the closest 15 minute increment, but that's tedious and allowing myself to be distracted isn't worth it, so I ensure the customer gets an even hour worth of work. I write down the date, hours, and short description of the work during that timeframe. If the customer has their own time management system, I record the day's entries into that at the end of the day. I record spreadsheet info into my QuickBooks invoices when it's time to bill. Then I create a new spreadsheet when starting a new invoicing period named with the date of the next invoice, e.g. CustomerName-20230327.xlsx.

sloaken 2 months ago

It depends on what I am doing. I find when doing software dev, I need to take frequent breaks to let my mind rest. That is part of the time cost of doing the job. I track when I come in and when I leave with a spreadsheet. Although salary, I know if I do not use the spreadsheet I, like I have observed others, will slowly let time slip until they are not doing their full job. My office looks for me to do 80 hours in 2 weeks. Some days are 10 some are 6 depending.

I notice others who watch the clock and leave immediately after 8 hours, my day is almost never that smooth and if I am on a roll I do not want to stop as it costs me more time.

But do take your occasional breaks, it is better for your overall productivity.

  • pcthrowaway 2 months ago

    > I find when doing software dev, I need to take frequent breaks to let my mind rest

    I've found this too, but I don't usually track the breaks as work (unless at least somewhat related to one of the things I'm working on, or that we have in the backlog, like reading an article about a type of query we are going to need to use, etc.)

    Are you tracking these breaks as part of your 80 hours in the 2 week period?

markus_zhang 2 months ago

Reference to the JC story pasted below. My thought after reading the story: man JC is hardcore, I wish I had half of his productivity. I'll probably persuade my wife to give me a full day to go to a motel (JC also does this frequently) to do the same test and see how my productivity lines up against his.

johntash 2 months ago

When I had multiple billable clients, I used to use org-mode and org-clock. It was really nice because I could keep really detailed track of which projects I was working on throughout the day.

I've changed jobs since then though and don't really need to know more than the total number of hours for a day, but I've been using Obsidian for that. In the yaml frontmatter, I have a 'clocks' array similar to what the clock-in/clock-out looks like from org-clock.

Tevunah 2 months ago

I used to use Toggl Track, but would miss some updates and would need to go back and update, so last week I used chatGPT to make a basic chrome extension to `prompt` in asking what I am working on every 30 minutes and append to a google sheet. Then it generates a pivot table of tasks and number of hours per day.

yusufnb 2 months ago


PS: I was looking for an app to track time against a list of value adds. More like daily task related activity logs with option to add time. So we built this internally and later launched as a SaaS.

hobabaObama 2 months ago

QBserve on mac is one time payment works forever

I found it to be great

hboon 2 months ago

I write into my worklog which is a Markdown file with entries like:

Project X 08:43 PM - 10:00 PM

eurasiantiger 2 months ago

I don’t.

If I did, I would get nothing done and lose my mind in the process.

phone8675309 2 months ago


When I was a contractor I used to generate my invoices using it.