Tired of ending my workdays wondering what the hell I'd done why I couldn't even manage to get one of the three things on list for the day completed I decided to take action. Much of my career has been in tech startups, particularly companies providing various types of Internet services, so I've dealt with many customer complaints and done quite a bit of troubleshooting and repair. So on any problem I would quickly push aside emotional evaluations or irrelevant details to get to and repair the root of the matter. So when I finally recognized that some of my project completion issues were a problem like any other to be understood and solved by uncovering the relevant data. I realized I just had to find a way to see exactly what I am doing, because I knew I was doing valuable work for my company, but just mostly not what I had intended at the outset of the day or week.
In my typical fashion I decided I would write a software tool that would be quick and easy to enter tasks, what job that task was related to and how long I'd spent on the task. Then I realized I don't have time to do my job every day let alone write some other tool, and this seems like one of those tools that some smart web 2.0 style kids would have built ages ago. So I Googled time tracking and came up with toggl.com. It was everything I wanted, from very quick task entry, pie charts showing percentage of time on each project and for my purposes it was free, as I'm not trying to use it to bill clients.
I've been using it now consistently for 3 weeks. I decided for "Project" I wouldn't try to track my time on projects in the GTD style, but rather against what David Allen calls your Area's of Responsibility, or in other words the big bullet points in your job description. After 3 weeks I have 14 different "Projects" on the list and an able to see at a glance where I'm choosing to spend my time. It has helped me emotionally in seeing that these things are necessary for accomplishing my job, and to be able to block out time for areas that need extra attention, and to know that means that other slices of the pie will suffer and I must account for that. Also for giving me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and a way to sum up what I've done.
Also it's a great tool for driving conversations with my employer. "Hey, I'm the only person in the company working on X, that means if you want me to do more of it or move it faster you'll need to help me obtain resources or reset expectations for W, Y and Z."
As far as using it, I've not spent more than 15 minutes in a day on it. I've tried before to track my tasks but have always failed. Knowing that I went in determined to record only essentials but get a complete picture of the day. So I don't record every mundane task but will record something as small as 10 minutes if it's on a job that I think will add up over time. So I'll typically record somewhere between 5 and 20 tasks on it in a day and be able to then get the perspective I need on my work to make longer range plans and decisions.