The best argument for why you should be using an automated time tracker: because life’s too short for being unproductive.

If you’re even at all nerdy about how to improve your life skills, you’ve read articles saying that time tracking is how super-busy entrepreneurs stay sane, balanced, and become successful. It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing though, isn’t it? Which came first, the personality of that really successful person you’re aspiring to be, or their organizational skills? Have you found yourself reading about one of your business idols, and their morning routines, and thinking you will never have the discipline to be that strict with your time management?

If you’ve been following along with our articles recently, you’ll have noticed a theme of time management skills. We started with goal setting and deciding your motivation behind tracking your time, then structuring your day effectively, and lastly how to turn these new skills into habits. One of the pieces of advice in the last article is that removing friction is one of the best ways to keep your new habits rolling. Time tracking apps are an integral part in effective time management skills, so why are they a source of so much anguish? If you’re not yet automating this part of the process, here’s why you should be.

With Automated Time Tracking, You Won’t Forget to Press Go

Have you used a time tracking tool that relied on pressing go to start it tracking? If so, you’ve probably experienced the incredible frustration of being away from your desk, coming back, and an hour after starting work realising you haven’t started your timer. Or was it half an hour? Maybe it was more? You can’t work it out, which means you can’t bill your client for time you may or may not have worked.

Automated time trackers, like Timing, are far more effective for time management because they don’t rely on you starting the timer. There’s no chance of you losing time, or not quite knowing what you were doing, because it’s all tracked. If you want to flip to a different project, there’s no need to change your timer — it will automatically be taken care of.

Don’t Lose “Work Hours” That Aren’t at Your Mac

Going to a business meeting, or taking a work phone call? Some time trackers require you to keep moving your mouse every ten minutes or so, to stop them timing out. No good at all if you’re on a long call, or out to lunch with a prospective client. “Let me just move my trackpad around…” isn’t going to go down well when you break the conversation. This article from PayDirt shows the difference between billable hours, and non-billable hours. If you only count your billable hours as work, or your hours at your Mac as work, then you’re going to risk overworking yourself, and possibly underbilling.

With an automated tracker, it knows when you’re at your computer… which means it also knows when you’re not. Timing has alerts you can set up for when you come back to your screen, which will prompt you to say what you’ve been doing. Not only will you not miss out adding valuable hours to your invoices, you’ll also have a more accurate picture at the end of the month of how much you’ve really worked. If you’re working for a per-project rate, or you’re on a retainer, this might result in you needing to tweak your rate, or put more or less time into specific projects.

You’ll Have More Accountability, For You and Your Clients

As a freelancer, sometimes you get clients who are less than ideal. Unfortunately, they tend to come with the freelancer territory, and crawl out of the woodwork once there isn’t the filter of boss or company logo between your work and them. With automated time tracking, though, you know exactly what you’ve been doing — and so can your clients. You can create detailed reports, export them into a PDF, and send them to your client. Down to the second, if needed.

This way, you stay accountable to yourself, too. Research shows that every distraction loses you 23 minutes and 15 seconds, because it takes that long to refocus onto the task. So the brief click on a different tab might not be as harmless are you think. Have you guessed the solution yet? If you check your Timing screen at the end of the day, there will be no escaping the evidence of those brief moments of procrastination. Eradicating them can save you stress, and far more time than you might expect.

By Tracking Tabs and Folders, Not Your Screen, You’ll Feel More Secure

Because automated time tracking works by tracking the apps or tabs you’ve been using, it doesn’t take any screenshots of potentially sensitive information. As apps which screenshot don’t know what you’re doing the rest of the time, they can also offer an inaccurate representation of your activity. If you don’t want Timing to track certain paths, you can create a blacklist. No need to worry about your information being shared, though. As we mentioned when we explored the security concerns surrounding time tracking apps, Timing only ever stores your data locally.

If you’re trying to build and keep strong time management habits, then automated time tracking is the way to go. Timing even shows you how productive your week has been, so you can either give yourself a pat on the back, or motivate yourself to do better. You might even be surprised by what you learn about how you spend your time, like Chris Ward was when he tried out Timing. You’ll save time, frustrations, and increase your productivity in the process. You’ll find that the process is so smooth, you’ll want to start tracking your whole life, not just your work day.

Still not sure about switching from your manual time tracker? Download our free trial of Timing, and you’ll never need to click that damn ‘start timer’ button again.