Working in an office, hours and tasks are likely fixed, but working remotely, such as from home, you must organize your time and tasks yourself. Don’t waste time, use a phone app to help you.
Avoiding distractions and focusing on your work and tasks is harder than it looks when you work remotely, such as from home. There are too many ways to waste your time and it is too easy to put off things that need to be done when the boss or your clients cannot see you. They assume you are working, but you may be browsing the web, checking for social media updates, or even watching TV.
Making sure your time is organized and that you use it productively is more important than ever, but how do you do it? Phone apps can help and there are time trackers and organizers that can show you what you need to do today or tomorrow or what you did yesterday, this or last week.
Apps like HoursTracker, Toggl, Clockify (read 3 ways to track time spent on tasks for work, billing on a phone) and others are brilliant at recording the exact time spent on tasks for billing customers and they can even monitor your location and start and stop timers automatically based on where you are, such as one company or office or another.
They are too detailed for me and too focused on business, but they are recommended if you need to track your time precisely. Here I look at two apps, one for iPhone and one for Android, that enable you to track the time you spend on tasks and to plan your day. They work by dividing up the day into small blocks. Let’s take a look.
Some people seem to be naturally organized, but others need prompting and pushing. An iPhone app called BlockyTime could help and there is BlockyTime Lite, which is free, and BlockyTime with extra features. I started with free BlockyTime Lite on the iPhone and then bought the full BlockyTime for $1.99.
BlockyTime divides a day up into half hour intervals (this is customizable in the full version) and presents each day as a grid. Down the right-hand side are activities and the color and name can be customized, and more activities defined.
Tapping or dragging in the grid of half hour slots and then tapping an activity tile sets it. So if you exercise between 17:00 and 18:30, you can select that time block as Exercise. If you work between 9:00 and 12:00, you can tap the half-hour slots and tap the Work tile. It is not very precise, but it is good enough and quick and easy.
Analyze the past, organize the future
You can map out your day and organize your time into whatever activities you regularly perform, like work, gym, study, reading, a hobby, and so on.
This has two purposes and it can be used at the end of the day to record what you did. You can quickly and easily fill in the slots according to the activities you performed. It is not necessary to be precise and record activities to the minute and half hour slots (or 15 minutes in the full app) is fine.
Charts of how you spend your time over the last day, week, month or year are available and this makes it easy to see if you are spending too much or too little time on various activities. Trends are plotted on a chart, so you can see increasing or decreasing time spent on activities over weeks or months.
The other way to use BlockyTime is to set activities in the future. At the start of the day you can spend five minutes mapping out how you will spend your time for the rest of the day. Swiping up takes you to the next day and you can plan tomorrow, the day after and even the whole week if you want to.
As you set activities in the future, you are asked if you want to set a reminder. When you are due to start a new activity, the reminder appears on the phone prompting you to start.
Summing up BlockyTime
If you need to see where you are spending your time or want to plan how to spend your day or the whole week, BlockyTime is excellent. It is not for people that need to schedule one-off things like a meeting or appointment, and it is not for tracking time spent on projects for invoicing customers.
I like it and you should at least try the free Lite version. I wasn’t keen on the blocky graphics and fonts, but they can be disabled in settings.
Blocos – time block & daily planner organizer
Blocos is a multi-function app for Android phones that tracks your time, plans your day, provides to-do-lists, and pomodoro work timers. The to-do list is a bit too simple for me and I prefer Microsoft To-Do. Pomodoro is adequate if all you want is a simple timer to enable you to focus on work and take breaks. You can also store notes in Blocos, although other notes apps are better.
The most interesting and useful part of the app is accessed by pressing Plan Your Day.
The app divides the day into 10-minute blocks, which it displays in hourly rows of six running from midnight to midnight. The grid can be used to either record the things you have done throughout the day or it can be used to plan your activities for the day.
You can tap a circle to select one block or press and drag across several to select multiple blocks. You can then assign an activity to the selected time blocks. Several activity categories are provided, but you can customize them and add your own to them. This enables you to quickly mark out how you spent your day once it is over, or how you intend to spend your day if it is not yet started. It can track past activities or organize future activities.
Some simple analytics is provided, and you can view the time spent daily as a percentage of the day, as the number of blocks for each activity, and as time spent on each activity.
Summing up Blocos
Blocos is not for business or for tracking time spent on jobs, clients and projects. It is useful if you want to track your time and see where it is spent or if you want to plan each day’s activities. The 10-minute blocks are find for simple planning and you can quickly map out the day ahead, like when you want to do things and how you will spend your time.
It can be used for free and there is a one-time fee or small monthly subscription to get extra features. I used it in free mode, and it was fine.