While working on my startup, should I keep track of my time?


I'm a cofounder at a startup.

One thing I have been thinking about alot lately is time tracking. I usually spend the day at the office, and then I get home and continue to work on more stuff. I have no idea how many hours I work a week or anything - but I love what I do and I can't help but work on it virtually all the time.

Why time tracking might be a good thing:

  • I can figure out ways to reduce time in different categories - by logging my time I might be more aware of time wasted.
  • My (or someone else's) work ethic might be contagious - right now I don't think my team members know how hard I work.
  • I might realize I'm working 80 hours a week, start working less, and start exercising again


  • I have to find a good system for tracking time
  • I have to use it - and actually remember to use it

Does anyone working on a startup track their time? To what extent?

If I should track my time, what do you recommend I use for time tracking?

Co-Founder Time Management

asked Dec 23 '10 at 17:13
Alex Cook
641 points
  • +1 for rescuetime. I have tried some apps in the past, I found this to be least bothersome and does it job nicely. – Ankur Jain 13 years ago

8 Answers


Yes you should track your time.

As a startup founder time is your most precious resource, the startup success is largely dependent on how you spend your time.

Time tracking will help you eliminate time wasters (both things you shouldn't do and things its more efficient to get someone else to do for you) and improve your estimation skills (by comparing the time it actually took to do something to your original estimate) - those two alone can improve your efficiency so much its worth all the trouble of time tracking.

The important thing about time tracking is that you need software that tracks your time as you work, software that requires you to fill a timesheet after the fact is worse than useless.

disclaimer: I sell time tracking software, obviously I think my product is the best time tracking product ever made, I won't link to it here because is feels spammy but I'm sure you'll be able to find it if you follow the link to my blog in my user profile.

answered Dec 23 '10 at 20:26
1,569 points
  • Ha - I'll definitely take a look at your solution. My biggest issue is actually using the software on a regular basis. – Alex Cook 13 years ago
  • @Alex - I had a hard time when I started, at the beginning you will forget to start and stop tracking - but if you don't give up at some point it will just become an habit – Nir 13 years ago


I definitely want to know where my time is going. Because I didn't find a good time tracker, I even wrote one myself. First I wanted to just test my own product, but then i figured out that I have a lot of micro tasks. Tasks which are <15min are micro tasks for me. When I have a lot of them I feel stressed and in the middle of the day i cannot concentrate well. With the stopwatches from my tool I found out that I had a lot of them and could reduce them and make bigger slots.

The other surprise for me was to see how much time I spent for nonsense. In the early days I easily could spent 2 hours or more a day on my e-mails. With time tracking I could identify this and now I am reducing my e-mail time to 45 minutes (aka one slot daily).

For me time tracking is self control and training self discipline. You need to find the right tool for it, time tracking need to be easy and even a bit fun.

The fun side for me is to see how long I actually work for something. For example, I know exactly how much time I needed to write a book. This number is impressive and motivating.

The last thing which made me love time tracking was the fact that I need breaks. I am a human. Previously I worked 80 hours in a week and was exhausted. With time tracking I am now able to make a cut and protect myself before overworking. I feel much better and productive now.

To sum it up good time tracking is motivating and helps to organize yourself. Bad time tracking is just... a waste of time.

answered Jun 27 '13 at 05:40
3,590 points


I started using https://www.rescuetime.com/ a few weeks ago to just get an idea of how I spend my time during the day. It just records what app/webpage has focus for how long. It then has a default list of how productive each app/website is which you can refine. You can also group apps into tasks e.g. software development. You then get a report on both your productivity and the time spent on each type of task. Best of all it is all automatic.

answered Dec 24 '10 at 03:14
Daniel Vaughan
231 points
  • RescueTime is a very low impact method for seeing where your time really goes. I also use Timeless Time and Expense. – Brandon King 13 years ago
  • Cool, Thanks Daniel for the tip... I'll check that out! – Alex Cook 13 years ago


the thread may be a bit old but I think it is still relevant. I'm a co-founder of a web startup and we recently started to track our time because of this famous question that some investors may ask you.

How much did you invest in the company ?

Sometimes you may have invested zero real dollars but a lot of time and hard labor. But as Benjamin Franklin said:

Time is money

So you have actually invested in your company and in order to prove it, it might be useful to keep track of the time.

At our company, we use toggle.com because it's deadly simple.

answered Jun 27 '13 at 03:32
101 points


You may want to have someone else track your time or track projects together with your team. Sometimes you're too nose-deep in your own work that it's hard to see how things are progressing overall (and how they should be progressing).

Contrary to some of the other posts here, I would say that tracking is not a waste of time - that is if you improve your current work efficiency. Schedule your work in weekly iterations and take one day out of each week to reflect and plan. Perhaps most important is coming up with a minimally viable product to release every week. Have you ever thought of using SCRUM?

I use it, and it helps everyone stay motivated because we have a visible product we can proudly say we completed within the allotted time. More importantly, we learn and improve our processes every iteration. It's all about self-improvement - if you can do that, the benefits spill over to everything else you do including your startup's transition to a larger company.

One of the comments about time-boxing rings true for certain types of tasks. While a startup may require you to wear multiple hats at once, you should try to reduce multitasking as much as possible. Research shows that it significantly reduces efficiency if you work on more than two tasks at once. Break down your work into discrete tasks with clear acceptance criteria - try not to work on other tasks until those are done (unless there's some kind of emergency).

Btw, exercise is a good idea. Like it or not, people can and will judge your business based on how healthy its members look.

answered Dec 24 '10 at 11:52
Henry The Hengineer
4,316 points
  • Thanks for taking the time to put together this answer. Good point on exercising! Glad we recently started a "running club" of sorts at the office :-) – Alex Cook 13 years ago


Time tracking can be really useful, if you can find a way to do it that you will actually follow through with consistently enough to yield useful info, and if you can find an efficient enough way to do it that the time tracking itself doesn't become your time-waster.

I found for a long time that time-tracking was too distracting to my workflow to be of any use, however recently I started using emacs org-mode for my notes and to-do lists. Its integrated time-tracking seems to do the trick for me.

answered Dec 25 '10 at 09:03
Hedge Mage
1,438 points
  • Thanks HedgeMage... org-mode looks pretty cool and flexible. I'll have to set aside a few minutes to look at it in detail. – Alex Cook 13 years ago


It may be more useful when it comes time to hire employees/contractors to take over some of these tasks. Measuring time can also aid in determining if you need a full-time or part-time person. You will be informed and have the flexibility to manage by task instead of just time.

answered Dec 27 '10 at 00:53
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • Thanks Jeff. Definitely. We're doing some outsourcing now. When you're actually spending money on tasks (instead of doing it all yourself) it puts it in perspective. – Alex Cook 13 years ago


I have a system to track my personal hours, but sometimes, on busy days its too much work to really track your hours.

Outlook's journal is good, I try to update what i do daily on a white notepad i keep next to me. (Pretty much checklists), and when i make a call, or work on something i write a little note. At the end of the day, i try to get this into outlook. The reason I do is not to keep track of my time per say, but more to be able to look back to when what happened.

Tracking your employees time, is a little more important than tracking your own.
If you know something like a girlfriend, wife, cell phone, tv, whatever distracts you then you need to look at your work environment. If you spend too many hours on the net, limit your browsing time (there is a good google chrome plugin for this).

Bottom line dont sweat it too much.
Only should be worried if you are cheating yourself and goofing off.

answered Dec 24 '10 at 00:06
2,079 points

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