Monthly Archives: March 2017

Time Tracking Software Review

Toggl vs. MyHours Time Tracking Software Review

Among all the tools I use in my Virtual Assistant business, I am most thankful for time tracking software. My first experience with time tracking was at a summer job in the ‘90s, where we would write our start time and end time in pencil on a little piece of paper.

Being a child of the ‘70s and not totally used to technology, I used that same method when I did my first project as a Virtual Assistant. But it involved looking at my watch before and after a task, and I didn’t always remember to do that. So then I decided to use an oven timer. The problem was that it beeped sometimes and made me salivate like Pavlov’s dog, expecting there to be cookies in the oven.

Toggl and MyHours

Then I entered the 21st Century and discovered the beauty of web-based time tracking tools. After using FreshBooks for a few years, I recently had a chance to try out Toggl.com and MyHours.com. Here’s a brief description of both tools:

Toggl

Toggl has a one-click time tracking function that can be done in real time or entered later. You can use it in your browser or as a free desktop app and mobile app for iPhone and Android. It syncs on all your devices and continues timing even when your device goes offline.

Basic time tracking is free, and three paid plans (Starter, Premium, and Enterprise) are available as a 30-day free trial.

Toggl works great for individuals or teams. You can mark times as billable and organize your time tracks by project with tags and color coding. Reports provide an overview of billable time and team progress, and you can export timesheets and email them to customers or supervisors. Toggl also integrates with many other productivity tools like Basecamp, Asana, FreshBooks, etc.

MyHours

MyHours has a one-click timer you can either use in your browser or as a free iPhone or Android app. Individuals can use MyHours for free, or you can pay a $2 U.S. per month for each team member added. A paid Pro plan (available as a 30-day free trial) is $3 U.S. per month and includes team management, budgeting, and invoicing.

With MyHours, you can either use the timer in real time or enter your time manually afterwards. You can mark your projects and tasks as billable or non-billable and indicate the pay rate. You also have the ability to approve time tracks if you’re managing a team.

Time tracks can be used to generate invoices with a choice between three types of pay rates:  hourly, task, and person.

Quick Time Tracking Comparison

After trying out Toggl and MyHours, I compared them to see how their features stacked up. As a Virtual Assistant who doesn’t enjoy math, there were certain things I was looking for. For example, I was hoping they would be easy to use without requiring me to have a lot of accounting skills. I also wanted them to be user friendly so that I wasn’t wasting time and energy that could be devoted to client work.

Both tools did their jobs well, and it was easy to sign up for 30-day trials of the paid versions. Here’s a quick summary of some things that stood out for me:

Toggl vs. MyHours Time Tracking Comparison

And the Winner Is…

Of the two time tracking tools, I preferred Toggl to MyHours. It had clean, simple interface that was easy to dive into. Entering my first time tracking project reminded me of updating a Facebook or Twitter status, so I almost started typing, “Used hairspray today and accidentally gave myself a ’90s hairstyle.” Just kidding, but you get the idea. It felt familiar and comfortable.

Toggl Review

MyHours had a more complicated interface that wasn’t bad. It just didn’t feel as comfortable to me and made me feel a bit nervous about getting started.

My Hours Time Tracking Review

Toggl Apps

Toggl’s apps had more customizable features than MyHours’, and I especially liked the Desktop app. It syncs with your browser account and includes a Pomodoro timer and notifications for when your timer/computer is idle.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, “Seven Ways to Thrive While Working from Home,”  it’s important to remember to take breaks from your computer work. Toggl’s desktop app allows you to set reminders so that the app will notify you to take a break after a certain time interval.

Toggl Time Tracking Software

Toggl Support

In terms of support, Toggl’s Twitter and Facebook Page seemed more active than MyHours’, and I preferred Toggl’s FAQ page because it includes both text answers and great photos to illustrate concepts for visual learners.

Toggl’s follow-up emails gave valuable information about apps, subscriptions, and features. Within the space of a week, I received 6 emails from Toggl, including one from a support person asking how my Toggl experience had been so far. It was a few too many emails for my taste, but an unsubscribe feature is available if you want to stop receiving them.

Other Toggl Features

Some other interesting features within the Toggl interface are notifications about new blog posts that keep you up to date on what’s happening with Toggl, and a fun achievement page that notifies you when you reach certain time tracking or project milestones.

Toggl Disadvantages

The major disadvantage of Toggl is that no invoicing can be done within Toggl itself. Since I already use FreshBooks, I don’t mind because I can just integrate FreshBooks into Toggl. However, if you’d like an all-in-one solution, MyHours is a good option because no integration of other cloud-based accounting services is required.

Summary

So all in all, I agree with Bradley Chambers, who wrote an article titled “The Best Time Tracking Solution for Freelancers.”  Chambers says,

Toggl offers native apps for Mac and iOS for tracking time, while also including a robust website for overall account management. The free option offers plenty for the freelancer with one or two clients, and the paid options offer a nice step up for people with additional needs. Toggl offers the ability to build clients and projects, but also maintains the simplicity of a simple time tracker. As a freelancer with a full-time job and three kids, the last thing I need is fiddly software. Toggl meets all of my needs without getting in the way.

Do you use Toggl and/or MyHours? What are your thoughts on these time tracking tools? Any others you would recommend?

Work From Home

Seven Ways to Thrive While Working From Home!

As I’m writing this post, it’s snowing outside my window, and I’m thinking, “I’m so glad I work from home and don’t have to go out in that storm.”

A short commute to work is one of the advantages of having an at-home office. My Grandma used to laugh when I told her, “It took me about 10 seconds to get to work today.” I would joke about minor delays caused by my tripping on the stairs or running into clutter in the hallway.

But there are definitely some challenges to working from home. When I first started my career as a Virtual Assistant, I would often get distracted by household chores or social visits and put off my work until the last minute. It can take a while to get a work-life balance established when both work and life are in the same place.

Here are some ways you can enjoy the freedom and flexibility of your at-home office and still be productive:

1. Be kind and have boundaries.

When you work from home, sometimes it’s tempting to procrastinate and end up racing to meet a deadline. Or you might feel guilty about saying no to a dinner invitation because you can just stay up late to finish your work.

But that kind of schedule is tough to maintain and can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. Now that virtual careers are more common than they used to be, I find people are usually understanding when I say I need to decline an invitation because of work. Maintaining these boundaries is a kindness to yourself and others. When you do take time away from your desk, you’ll have more of yourself to give to your friends and loved ones.

2. Organize your day.

In keeping with the idea of maintaining boundaries, it often helps to develop a work routine. By blocking out chunks of time devoted to certain tasks, you can map out when you’re available for housework, socializing, and family time.

Here are some tools that can help organize your schedule:

Google Calendar: A free online calendar where you can keep track of events or deadlines and set reminders for yourself. Also available as an app for Android or iOS.

Wunderlist: A free online account where you can create to-do lists and reminders. App can be downloaded and synced on all your devices.

3. Get dressed for success.

Years ago my parents gave me a pair of cozy flannel pajamas for Christmas, and when I opened the gift, my Dad said, “Work clothes!” Yep, I had gotten into the habit of rolling out of bed and not bothering to get dressed. My clients all lived out of town, and Skype wasn’t invented yet, so I wasn’t worried about anyone seeing me. Sometimes I even forgot to brush my teeth because I’d just dive into my tasks.

Everyone is different, so I hesitate to prescribe a certain way of heading into your virtual work day. If you like to eat breakfast before work, by all means do so. If you like to get a bit of work done in your PJs before you eat breakfast, you can do that too. But it will do wonders for your frame of mind and productivity if you set a time in the morning to get dressed and ready to face the world… or the courier delivery person who unexpectedly shows up at the door.

4. Have backup.

When working from home, it can be scary when the power goes out or the Internet isn’t working… and I shudder to think of those times when the computer crashes. Thankfully there are many tech tools we can use as backup.

I’m a big fan of cloud-based services like Google Docs and Dropbox for backing up files. Sometimes I even pop my works-in-progress into a Gmail draft for extra backup. After my iMac computer crashed a few years ago, I also invested in an external hard drive so that I wouldn’t lose everything again.

In a post titled “Working from Home? Here are 6 Tips to a Productive Day at the (Home) Office,” 
Jennee Rasavong recommends having the ability to tether to your cellphone data in case of an Internet outage.

It’s also a good idea to locate an alternate Wi-Fi location where you can work if the power goes out in your house and you need to be online.

5. Be comfortable in your space.

In order to thrive in your at-home office, you need to feel comfortable in it. A dedicated work station is important, but if it feels cramped and cluttered, you won’t want to be there.

I enjoy having Wi-Fi and a portable computer desk in my home because when my husband is at work, I can take my laptop into the living room and sit by the patio doors. Alternatively, I can retreat to a separate room that serves as my at-home office if I need privacy.

The great thing about working from home is you have freedom about the kind of chair and desk you choose. A blog post titled “5 Tips for Working at Home Effectively” recommends the InMovement Standing Desk that can be adjusted from a sitting to standing position. This type of desk allows more range of motion and can help you avoid the discomfort of sitting for extended periods of time.

6. Batch emails and social media.

I have one of those “Do it now” personalities, and my greatest loss of productivity happens when I answer every email or social media notification as it comes. But I’ve finally discovered the beauty of batching. By checking and answering emails only at certain times of the day or at certain time intervals, I find I can focus on the tasks at hand without getting distracted. It also helps me give more thought to my replies instead of hurriedly answering.

7. Take regular breaks.

When I was taking some computer courses at a local college, my instructor recommended that we use the 20-20-20 rule to prevent eye strain. The Canadian Association of Optometrists describes this rule as “Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.” It’s great advice for those of us who work on computers most of the day.

It’s also important to get up and move around regularly. I have a bad knee that starts complaining when I sit too long, so it’s an automatic reminder to get up from my desk and walk around every half-hour. A stopwatch or time tracking tool can also help you remember to take breaks.

And when you feel like you’ve been working alone too long and need some human contact, a phone call or coffee with a friend can be rejuvenating. I have a friend I call once a week to shoot the breeze around lunchtime, and by organizing my days, I pinpoint certain times when I can commit to planning a visit with someone.

Well, it looks like the snow has stopped falling in my neck of the woods, but I’m still glad I don’t have to drive home from work. After 17 years of working in an at-home office, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What are some tips or tools that have helped you thrive when working from home?