It feels as though the hours in our days are getting squeezed more and more, which is why I've come to rely on an app called Toggl Track to keep tabs on every minute of my working day – and as a freelance tech journalist, it means I know exactly how much time projects are taking up, and how much money I've got coming in.
This is part of a regular series of articles exploring the apps that we couldn't live without. Read them all here.
You don't have to be a freelancer to make use of Toggl Track, though. It can keep tabs on household tasks, side projects, hobbies, and much more. No matter how you split your days, Toggl gives you a better understanding of where all your time is going, which then puts you in a better position to do something about it.
Whether you use Toggl Track to figure out how much to bill a client or just to make sure your Netflix addiction isn't getting out of hand, it's one of those apps that you may come to rely on every single day. As an added bonus, it comes with a built-in tool for setting aside blocks of time for focused work or study.
It couldn't be easier to use
Being a tech journalist involves writing a lot of words, and each one of those words gets me a little bit closer to the weekend (or to retirement, depending on the time scale you have in mind). The less time I spend doing admin, managing emails, or sorting out anything that isn't actual writing, the better.
That's where Toggl Track's ease of use really helps. Starting a new block of time takes a couple of taps, and with the choice of widgets that sit on your home screen, it's even more straightforward.
It's not one of those apps where you need to spend half a day figuring out how to actually use it: sessions can be started as they happen or added later, and once the app has got a feel for your schedule and how you work, it'll even make suggestions about what you want to track next. Wednesday afternoon? You must be busy with the TechRadar newsletter.
The work that you do can be organized into various projects and clients if needed, and these can be customized to suit your situation: if you're working on a Ph.D. rather than an iPhone 15 review, then Toggl Track is able to adapt. This all comes in handy when it's time to look at how your days have been split.
A word, too, on the Pomodoro part of the app: if you're new to the Pomodoro technique, it basically splits your time up into blocks of focused work and regular breaks. Toggl Track can handle these timings for you, giving you a nudge when it's time to start and stop each session, and even providing a variety of background noises along the way – brown noise, rain on trees, jungle noises, a ticking sound, take your pick.
It's all wrapped up in a clean, approachable interface where everything feels like it's in the right place. Despite the advanced features offered by the app as you dig deeper, you won't have any problems getting started or finding your way around.
The reports are excellent
The first reason I love Toggl Track is that it makes it super simple to log what I'm doing and when without wading through a host of menus and settings each time. The second reason I love the app is what it's able to do with the data you give it, in terms of the reports that it's able to produce.
Obviously, you can see when you've been working and when you haven't, but you can also check in on which projects have taken up a lot of time and which haven't. Projects and clients can be tracked separately, giving you more flexibility in terms of labeling blocks of time – you might have several jobs for the same company, for instance.
If you are using Toggl Track as a freelancer, rather than tracking study times or household jobs, then you can see billable vs. non-billable hours, and figure out how much money each client owes you. If you sign up for one of the paid plans, then even more report options are available, including extra formats for exporting this data into a different program.
The calendar view is useful too, if you need to see at a glance where all of the hours in the day have gone – or if you need to share this information with someone else. If I'm prioritizing one piece of work too much over another, for example, then that's where the calendar view can help.
Those are just some of the features available in Toggl Track and some of the reasons why I love having it on my home screen. If you're looking to do something more advanced with the software, like tracking projects across an entire team of employees, then it's able to expand accordingly. Along with the mobile app, you've got desktop clients and browser extensions to work with too.
You can use a lot of the tools in Toggl Track for free, but a subscription gets you more reports and more features (like the ability to split projects up into sub-projects, and task time estimates). Prices start from $10 (about £8 / AU$15) a month, and you can try the premium plan for a period of 30 days to see if it suits your needs.
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Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.