Time Tracking with Log

4 mins // 23 END 17

I’ve written a few times about tracking your time, but it’s difficult to know where to start. There’s nothing easier than putting it off, waiting for the “right moment” to start. Or after taking a day or two off, trying to find the right time to jump back in. I can’t tell you how often I’ve skipped two days in running, journaling, or any of my goals for the start of a new week, or for some arbitrary “sign”. It doesn’t get easier. Just start now. 

Still, something as unnatural like logging your activities isn’t the easiest thing to know where to begin. What data is useful? What logs should you make, & what should you omit? What can you use to make yourself more productive, & what will only bog you down?

Even past that, it’s hard to know how to take logs. When I first started out, I was writing them in the margins of my daily journal. I tried a few time tracking apps, but none stuck, partially due to their focus on tracking time for payroll. I eventually moved on to taking logs in my notebook, & then finally to making logs in a spreadsheet on my Google Drive. 

These are great first steps. However, they don’t easily leverage this data for your use. For that you’d need a dedicated time tracking program, something like the logging set up by my friends Vi & Rutherford (whom I interviewed here!)

My friend Josh Avanier has created his own system & released it as a free app, which you can download here. His version is simply called Log, & has basically every useful feature built in. There’s a version for Mac, Linux, & Windows.

When you download the app, you’ll be met with a screen like this, but without all the fancy looking data filled in yet. That will come after you start to use the app. To enter a command, to either start a log or change some settings, simply start typing. 

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If you click on the question mark in the upper left, you’ll get the information & guide on usage, but I’ll run through the bullet points here.

Using Log —

First, know how to start & stop a log. A log consists of a few different fields of data. These are: Date, Start time, Stop Time, Sector, Title, & Description. Think of Sector like the category, for example Cooking or Writing might be good Sector names. 

To start a log, simply type: `start "SECTOR" "TITLE" "ANY DESCRIPTION"`. For example, try & enter, `start "Tracking" "Log" "Configured Log's Settings"`. This will start a log with those parameters. 

You can confirm you did it correctly because the counter in the upper left will start to click up, & if you click on the fourth tab (denoted by a square) you’ll see the log listed there in an entry.

Now, let’s get to changing some settings. If you hover over any unfamiliar icon, you’ll get a description of what that icon means, & how it can be implemented. However, if you don’t want the icons, you can exchange them for text with `set icons false`. Entering `set icons true` will reverse this.

Now you may want to configure how Log looks. This is simple. To change the background color, enter something like `set background #1e90ff`. You can set any hex color you’d like, or use an HTML color name, like “blue”. Changing the type is just as easy. Type `set color #000000`.

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The final two things you might want to configure are how Log displays past logs. For start, to change your timebase from 12-hour time to 24-hour time, type `set time 24` or `set time 12`. You can also change your calendar base. In my favorite setting, Log comes preconfigured to use MONOCAL out of the box. To view this, simply enter `set calendar monocal`. You can use the same command to use Josh’s own Aequirys calendar, or the standard Gregorian calendar. 

Then, you might want to change how many past logs are displayed, you can type `set view 7` to show the past 7 days, or `set view 30` to show the last month.

Now that Log is configured to your liking, you can complete your log. To do so, just type `end`. You’ve just completed your first log. You should see this data propagate the different tabs of the tracker, ready for viewing & analysis. 

If you click over to the “OVERVIEW” tab, you’ll see some basic parameters under your graph. These data points are as follows. LHt are the hours you’ve logged that day. ASDt is the average tracked session duration for the day. LSn is your shortest session of the day, & LSx is the longest session of the day. LPt is the percentage of the day you’ve tracked.

On the left under the triangle, the graphs are your peak productive hours, & peak productive days, respectively. The diamond shows off your forecasted productivity for the day, based on the previous logs. Of course, this becomes more & more accurate the more data you’ve fed the system. The middle charts showcase your timeline of logs, for the day & for the specified days prior.

That should be enough to get you started with tracking your own time. Hopefully this has been useful information. Of course, tracking your time is one of the most effective ways to increase your productivity, & to be conscious of time spent & time wasted. Josh has done an incredible job not only in making a beautiful application, but perhaps the most user-friendly way to track your time & capitalize on the data for best results. 

For any further questions, reach out to him on Twitter @joshavanier. Read his post on MONOCAL here. Has anyone tried to use a time tracker before? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!

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