in Self-Improvement, Success Daily

Using ATracker to track and manage time

When Kim and I returned from our 15-month RV trip across the U.S. in 2016, I was overwhelmed — and for a lot of reasons. One problem was that I couldn’t seem to manage my time.

Time management has been a struggle for me all of my life. It’s something that most folks with ADHD wrestle with. It’s tough for us to prioritize. And even when we do manage to prioritize things, it’s tough for us to stay on task.

Related reading: Yesterday on the ADHD subreddit, one user asked a great question: Why the hell does my brain tell me this five-minute thing I need to do will consume my entire day, leading me to do the fun stuff first? Ah, this is my life. Instead of getting the requirements out of the way and playing later, I play first. I cannot defer gratification. Apparently, it’s an ADHD trait. I’m working on it.

In 2016, I spent a week performing Laura Vanderkam’s time makeover. For seven days, I logged everything I did in fifteen-minute increments. It was a useful exercise.

I’ve been wanting to do something similar again. But really, I want to track my time on an ongoing basis. One week doesn’t give enough data. Plus, although I tried not to do so, I know I alter my behavior slightly when I’m aware I’m conducting a short-term experiment. I want to see long-term patterns.

Yesterday morning, because it was the first day of the year, I went on the app store to search for time management apps. There are a lot of them (although most are targeted at business users). Each works in a slightly different way. Most seemed a bit clunky to me. But then I found ATracker, and I knew I’d hit the jackpot.

How ATracker Works

For me, ATracker is perfect. (I don’t mean to be hyperbolic in this case. I mean it. It’s a perfect app.)

Fundamentally, ATracker does only one thing: It logs the time you spend on various activities. Here’s how it works.

  1. You create a “task” for each activity you want to track. Each person will want to track different things. In my case, I created tasks like Sleeping, Gaming, Hot Tub, Mindless Web, and Get Rich Slowly.
  2. Whenever you start a task you’d like to track, you go into the app and touch the task name. This starts a timer.
  3. Whenever you finish a task, you go into the app again and touch the task name. This stops the timer.

That’s it. That’s the basic functionality built into ATracker. That’s all it does. But you know what? I don’t need (or want) it to do anything else. And while this is its basic functionality, let’s talk about a few of the apps more important features.

First, you can track multiple tasks at once. So, for instance, yesterday while I was in the hot tub, I tracked that activity and I tracked the fact that I was reading. I’m not sure how many activities you can “nest” like this. Because I was reading a book about money, I might have also tried to log this as Get Rich Slowly time also…but I didn’t.

Second, there’s an Apple Watch version of the app. This is huge. I know it’s easy enough to go into my phone to start (or stop) a timer when I’m doing something, but having a watch app for this removes all barriers. Now it’s merely a matter of getting in the habit, which will take a few days. (Remembering to start/stop the timer when I’m sleeping will be the biggest challenge.)

Finally, ATracker offers amazing reports.

The main screen — the Today screen — is where you start and stop tasks. Here, you can see how much time you’ve spent on each activity today.

ATracker's default Today view

On the Calendar screen, you can see a timeline view of exactly what you did each day — including “nested” tasks. In this screenshot below, for instance, you can see when I was reading in the hot tub yesterday morning.

ATracker's Calendar view

The History view is somewhat similar to the Calendar view, but it shows you each activity in discrete chunks.

ATracker's History view

Lastly, the Report page gives you a pie chart that breaks out how you spent your time during a given period. You can opt to see the breakdown by day, by week, by month, or by a specified range.

ATracker's Report view

Based on the app’s iconography and dialog boxes, I’m certain that there are some subtle features that I haven’t discovered yet. There are different ways to view the data. It look as if you can set goals and/or targets. And so on. I don’t care about any of this stuff. What I want is an app that tracks how I’m spending my time, then shows me that data. ATracker does precisely this.

Final Thoughts about ATracker

Will I continue to use ATracker for more than a few days? That’s a great question.

I have a 51-year track record of starting stuff like this and then not following through. A couple of days ago, I mentioned my new five-year journal, for example, as something I worry about using for a little while and then forgetting.

But the thing with ATracker is that it’s so brain-dead simple. I mean it’s very very easy to use. There’s no barrier there. (The barrier is me forgetting to start a timer. When I started writing this post, I forgot to start my “Folded Space” activity in the app, for instance. I remembered after a couple of minutes. Fortunately, you can edit and/or manually enter data to fix issues like this.)

Plus, I’m highly motivated to use this. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and implemented in a way that I love.

So yes, it’s possible that this app will fall by the wayside. But I suspect there’s a high chance that I’ll continue to use it not just for days, but for weeks and months ahead.

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  1. I might try this app, but I’m afraid to find out how much time I spend mindlessly playing games on my tablet and computer (nested with semi-watching TV) in the evening.

    I’m impressed with the amount of hot tub time you manage. I can’t do it for more than 15 minutes or so, and then I’m a prune! If you want to keep that 5 year journal, find a way to fit it into the first few minutes of your hot tub time. 🙂

    • Haha. We manage a lot of hot tub time because we keep the temperature relatively low. Our normal setting is 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which means the temp fluctuates between 98 and 102. This is very pleasant. We have friends who keep their spas at 102 (or higher!), which means the temp bounces between 100 and 104. This is way too hot for long-term enjoyment. But at 100? I can sit in there for hours. And I do.