This week I wanted to share with you a few of the tools I use to get things done. They're not huge apps made by gigantic companies, but they do one or two things really well and help me make the most of my busy days.

Today I'll start out with ChronoMate. As I've mentioned countless times, I use FreshBooks a lot. For clients, my uses vary, but for That Bookkeeper, it's main use is time tracking. I don't sell apps, cables, or fresh baked goods. I sell my time and expertise. Just like you need to know how many chocolate chip muffins you've sold today, I need to know how many hours I worked and which projects I worked on.

FreshBooks has a good built-in timer on the website and on their mobile apps. For people who only track their time occasionally these are just fine. But for those of us who track multiple projects, clients, and tasks each day, you need a little extra power.

ChronoMate Main

When I was on Windows I used a 3rd party app called BreakTime. It's no longer being developed, but you can check the FreshBooks add-on directory to find out what's available for Windows.

I'm not turning this into an exhaustive review or a user manual, but I'd like to highlight a few reasons I really love ChronoMate.

  1. Multiple active timers - You can have multiple timers open in the menu bar. You have the option to have multiple timers running at once, although I never use it that way. What I like to do is setup timers for all the projects I know I'm going to be working on that day (see screenshot below). I click the "play" button on the first project of the day and get to work. When I'm ready to switch to something else, I just click play on the next project. It starts and the old one pauses. When I'm done with a project for the day I open the timer, fill in the memo details, and "push" the hours to FreshBooks.

ChronoMate timers

  1. Create new __ within ChronoMate - I can create new clients, projects, and tasks right within ChronoMate. That's super handy if I want to log time to a new project but don't want to open a browser and log into FreshBooks. ChronoMate lets you push data to it and you can manually pull data down from FreshBooks to refresh and data you may have entered in the site.

  2. Good memory - There are few things more frustrating than running a timer for the better part of the morning and then having the app or the device freeze up on you. Was it 1h25m or 2h15m that I just logged to that tax return? Crap! ChronoMate (so far) has been awesome in these cases. I've had my MacBook Pro completely lock up and require a reboot. A couple minutes later when the dust has settled, I open up ChronoMate and the timers I was running appear in the menu bar with the right times intact.

You can sign up for ChronoMate through the FreshBooks website as a $1/m add-on, but I highly recommend buying it outright from the App Store ($20). One of my clients has had big issues with subscription errors when using the add-on. They had at least a dozen employees using the $1/m add-on. It gets billed through FreshBooks but not with your FreshBooks subscription. When they got a new credit card, I updated the billing info in FreshBooks...thinking the main FreshBooks subscription was linked with the add-ons. It's not, so when the ChronoMate subscription payment was declined it stopped working. No problem, right? Well I guess there's a known issue in the code somewhere between these two companies. I don't know the details. All I know is that even after multiple attempts to fix the problem, including emails to both FreshBooks and ChronoMate we still can't get the subscription to reactivate. We've since switched everyone to the App Store version and it's been smooth sailing ever since.

I know there are free 3rd party apps out there, but the power and features this app provides makes it well worth the $20. If you get paid for your time I can guarantee that poor time tracking caused you to under bill far more than $20 last year, so this app will pay for itself in no time.