I’ve had troubles with time tracking my worktime for all the years. I always found this to be a tedious burden and inconvenience. So one morning in my blue hour (reading in a cafe before work) I spent the time pondering the alternatives.
I started listing software and realworld solutions to timetracking that are possible and tried to contemplate if they would (or had) worked out for me.
plain text files
browser based timetracking
popup applications/widgets asking for the current task
diary / filofax
But none of these seemed to work sufficiently for me. But the arrangement of events of a day in iCal struck me as beeing a stack of time boxes atop each other. Having played recently with my daughters legos (duplo), I quickly jumped on the thought of using them to build these stacks in the real world.
So I bought an box of 600 legos from amazon for around 19 Euros. Opening the package showed me that fortunately there was a variety of colors (white, black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, chartreuse, blue) and lots of different sizes (lengths) and two widths (one row and two rows of studs).
As a child I hated these one-rowers as they were not useful in building stuff. But here and now they seemed a perfect fit. Small enough and in the right sizes. I chose a time partitioning of a quarter of an hour. So I can use the lengths 1,2,3,4 to build 15,30,45 and 60 minutes worth of time in a row representing an hour.
Stacking these hourly rows on top of each other builds up the whole day. I use the different colors for the projects I’m involved in (8 are just enough), putting them on the stack whenever I want and have time to do so (but mostly quite instantly).
I made up a single width column as ruler for the work hours (from at around 10 am up to 6 pm). So I can easily see whats missing and at what time I did something. For the days of the workweek I chose the rainbow color scheme (red, orange, yellow, green, blue – Monday to Friday) for the longer base row that I stack my hours on. So I can gather a whole week of time tracking until I have to enter them in some time sheet (software). I put the columns of a whole week on top of a green building plate to fix them.
You can easily see how much work you did for any given project as you recognize the colored areas rather than time ranges (8:45-11:15). Having the relative time shares as part of this setup helps as well.
You can even plan your work by prebuilding your days on temporary bases with the planned amount of time for each activity (or putting at least the estimated amount of bricks aside).
The benefits are obvious:
it works (for about 4 months now)
I have something to play with while pondering stuff
it looks great
it’s incredibly fast with no overhead
planning is possible
The single disadvantage:
coworkers coming to your place and disassembling your time tracks
I’m still looking for a great name for the whole thing. Here’s what I have collected by now:
The timeful way of building
I appreciate any suggestion for a great name.
One last thing I have been thinking about is getting these daily columns recorded automatically. So using your webcam or phone camera, you just hold the “day” in front of it. After taking the picture it is processed. The extracted information can be used in any possible way.
Update: I started writing a small java application that shall exactly do this. It’s almost finished, so stay tuned. Writing the data to iCal should pose no problem as well.
Early preview image of the scan application:
I added a poll for the name of “Lego Time Tracking to the blog” Feel free to vote or to suggest new names.