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How to identify your time wasters and get rid of them

estimated reading time: 2 min

Nekka works as an artist and illustrator. She wanted to understand how much time she spent on creating art vs the additional activities to advertise and sell it. To find the right balance, she started tracking with Timeular.

Less social media, more creative artwork

Which activities should I track? That’s a question a lot of people ask themselves. Nekka solved it that way: she thought about the tasks she wanted to manage the time she spends on them.

“I need to keep a balance in my freelance career to ensure I have enough time to focus on all my different tasks.”

She tracks Art, Commissions, Website, Administration, Shop, Patreon, Promotion & Networking, Exhibitions. 

To begin with, she looked at how much time she spent on social media. 

With the help of the analytics, she identified where her time was going to waste and decided where it could be better spent and how to use it more productively. 

“The main issue was spending too much time running social media without having content to post. Seeing the time spent showed me how creating more art would naturally allow more content to be posted. Timeular helps me keep this balance.”

She now has 3 additional hours a week of creative work and spends less time coming up with ideas for her social accounts. 

Nekka’s tips: prioritize, finding the right tasks and Toggl integration

  1. You waste a lot more time than you realize on lower priority tasks. Creating a list of priorities helps you get to the things you need most.
  2. One of my challenges was organizing my tasks among the 8 sides. I realized it was more simple to track tasks by a generic category rather than getting confused by too many. I kept things simple and it went much easier.
  3. I use Todoist to log my tasks and see what I’ve accomplished, I also use Toggl in combination with Timeular to help tag my tasks into subcategories and create pdf exports for clients.

Bio
Nekka is an artist/illustrator and works as a freelancer for Nekka’s Art. You can find out more about what she is doing here. She has been using Timeular for the last 2 years. 

Timeular 2.2 – Enhanced tags + Harvest integration

We’ve heard your feedback on #tags and @mentions loud and clear. It took some time, but here we are shipping you some cool new tag features to make the tracking and analysis of sub-activities and categories like #billable, #non-billable more simple.

What’s new in short ?

  • Tags can be edited and deleted
  • Analytics showing you time spent on #this and #that or meeting with @Ross
  • Use tags to filter your analytics
  • Use filters when exporting as CSV/XLSX
  • Harvest integration with two-way sync and simple setup
  • No need for administration rights during installation/update on Windows anymore
  • Fixes and performance improvements

Tags can be edited and deleted

If you want to get rid of a tag or modify it, simply hover over it in the dropdown and use one of the two icons on the right. Maybe it’s time for a clean up?

How to delete a tag

deleting_tags
Delete tags in the weekly view.

How to edit a tag

edit_tags
Edit tags in the weekly view.

Pro feature: Analytics for #this and #that or meeting with @Ross

You wanted a chart showing exactly how much time you have spent on #this and #that or meeting with @Ross? It’s right there in the recently polished analytics view.

Additionally, you can now use tags in your filters to narrow down your charts even more. It’s time to dive deep into your tracking data and refresh your view about your time spent.

tags_analytics
Analyze your tags with the help of filters.

Apply filters to your CSV/XLSX export files

Our export and filter functionality didn’t really like each other so that the export kept ignoring what the filter was saying. Now they are close friends and working together. Yay!

filter_export
Filter your exported data with the tags.

Harvest integration for two way sync

Many of you asked for a Harvest integration and without making you wait any longer – we’re happy to announce that the Harvest integration is not in Beta anymore and it’s ready for you to be setup.

All your clients, projects and tasks will be imported and you can track them directly from Timeular which will ultimately help you to have more accurate tracking with less effort. Go and sync all the things!

harvest_integration
Integrate Timeular with Harvest.

Windows: No more administration rights needed

So far administration rights have been required to install and update Timeular on Windows and we know how complicated and annoying that can be for everyone if you are not the person who actually has administration rights on your PC.

The administration rights were only required for the Bluetooth Dongle and as most of you don’t need the Dongle anymore, we’ve detached that driver installation from our app and you will only get asked for administration rights if the Dongle is needed.

Please be aware, to perform this update you will still need administration rights. You’ll have to buy your admin a coffee ☕️ one last time. Sorry.

Thank you for your feedback

We want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your feedback which helps to improve Timeular every day. If you have more feedback to share or if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to our friendly support team at support@timeular.com.

Make your time count,
Team Timeular

Our first unplanned downtime in two years

In the second week of May 2019, we had our first unannounced service-downtime since launching in April 2017, which lasted 2 hours for 3 days in a row. We’re very much aware that the stability of our service plays a huge role when trusting our product and that’s why we want to be as transparent as possible. In the following blog post, we want to share our most important learnings and what we’ve done to provide you an even better service in the future.

To better understand the whole story, here is a quick intro about our infrastructure. (If you’re not interested in the technical side, skip the next two paragraphs.)

To better maintain and scale our infrastructure, we don’t have one huge service but many small ones called micro-services that can easily be deployed on a server via Docker. These micro-services are managed and scaled with Kubernetes. We run multiple instances of every micro-service for redundancy and performance reasons.

To monitor our micro-services we use Prometheus, the ELK-Stack, and Grafana. Our monitoring system alerts us in case something is wrong, which is how the story started.

On Tuesday the 7th of May at 03:50 pm CEST our monitoring services alerted us that all our instances of the most important micro-service called time-tracking-service were unreachable. This means that while you were still able to register, log in, manage integrations, etc. you were not able to do the most important thing: track your time.

After investigating the issue, we quickly noticed that the time tracking service had huge queues with threads (something like small task-runners) waiting to get a database connection. We started trying to solve the problem with the usual procedures like restarting the services, tuning the settings and adding more instances. After several attempts, this solved the issue on the first day and decreased our heart rate a little.

While we were looking for the root cause of the downtime on Wednesday, the time tracking went down at nearly the same time again, which increased our heart rate by quite a lot.
At this point we had two assumptions: as both incidents happened at nearly the same time of the day, we thought either it’s because most of our US customers become active at that time and our European customers are still active, or because a few specific customers become active.

We started to run intensive load-tests on our testing-environment, which first didn’t provide any significant insights but at some point, we were finally able to replicate the issue. Doing a deeper investigation revealed that, simply put, the database hard-drive was too slow and was unable to keep up with the load.

As a solution, we then provisioned a faster SSD drive on the testing and production environment which fixed the issue.

The issue was hard to discover because we had disabled additional debugging information on our production system. This is considered best practice for speed and security reasons but has some trade-offs in situations such as these. We’ve learned a couple of things (the hard way) and tuned our monitoring system, especially regarding the database as it turned out we had a few blind spots there.
So as a result of the incidents we’ve improved the monitoring system for our database and documented how to enable additional debugging on the production system.

Although we run load tests at Timeular since the beginning, we’ve now increased our effort in this area to know the limits of our infrastructure early on and to further increase the stability of our infrastructure.

We know that many of you requested an offline tracking mode and we are aware of the advantages it would have, especially in these situations. We can assure you the offline feature has gained a higher priority now.

Final words

Besides learning and improving a lot of things, one thing that surprised me the most were the supportive messages we received from you, our users, during this intense time. The incredible support that you’ve shown definitely helped us to stay positive late at night while searching for the root of the problem. So this is my time to thank all of you for the kind words and your faith in us.

Thank you,
Manuel Z. (CTO)