For many people, one of the reasons they cite for using a Linux-based operating system is productivity. If you're a power user who has tweaked your system just to your liking, and particularly if you adept at the command line, chances are you've realized significant gains in productivity.
But do you have to be an extreme power user to make use of open source software's ability to boost your productivity? Absolutely not!
Productivity, at its base level, is really about tracking your time effectively. On one level, simply being aware of how much time you spend looking at cat pictures on your favorite social media sites can really help to change behavior. But beyond that, to understand whether changes you make to your regular tasks and routines are really having an impact, you need to understand where your time is going and how to better manage it.
Beyond productivity, you may not be the only one interested in how your time gets spent. Particularly if you are serving in a freelance role, working as a creative, developer, or other type of professional where you slip easily back and forth between work and non-work tasks, being able to track how your hours are spent is especially important so that you can accurately bill them back to your clients.
Whatever your reason, here are a few open source tools for time tracking and management that are worth checking out.
A Pomodoro timer
One of my favorite time management techniques is to use a Pomodoro timer. Essentially, it's a way to break up your day into smaller segments of work, giving you the ability to intentionally direct your focus for a reasonable period of time (typically about 25 minutes), followed by a short break (typically about five minutes). The creator of the Pomodoro technique, Francesco Cirillo, had a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, leading to the name for the technique following the Italian word for tomato.
There are many open source tools which can provide this functionality to you on a variety of devices. My favorite tool on the Linux desktop is Gnome Pomodoro, which allows for integration directly with your Gnome shell, but practically any timer application will do. Windows or Mac users should check out Tomighty, a desktop tool providing similar functionality, whose source code is available under an Apache license on GitHub.
A time tracker
At some level, there's no shortcut around simply writing down how you're spending your time. If you're old fashioned about it, a pen and paper will of course work, but that makes doing aggregation and statistics on how actual time is being spent into a bit of a nightmare. So perhaps you've moved on to using a plain text file or a spreadsheet to track your time. Better, yes, but still not ideal for collaborative projects, and the interface by its nature can be prone to user error.
Two good open source tools for handling this functionality are Anuko Time Tracker and Kimai. Both are web-based solutions, allowing for multiple team members to track time across multiple projects. But you can also host either from a local web server if you don't have a need for sharing time tracking functionality with others.
A web activity tracker
Finally, let's take a look at a specific time of time tracker that handles at least some aspects for you. A web activity tracker will aggregate the amount of time spent at various domains, so that you can sort out that nebulous part of your day (perhaps you call it “research” or “miscellaneous web browsing”) and start to put a handle on how much time is spent where.
In Chrome, I like this particular tool, aptly named browser-timetracker, available as a Chrome extension and with source on GitHub. Similar tools are available for Firefox.
These are a few of my favorite open source tools to help me to better manage my time. What are yours? Let us know in the comments below.