The Productive Individual: Rize
This is the most impressive "auto-time tracking" tool we've seen—all you really need to do is install the app and then... Well, forget about it 🤯
If you're like most people though, you'll probably spending most of your time in the browser (like Arc), most time tracking tools will just mark this time as "browsing", but if you install the Rize browser extension, it'll actually further categorize your time based on the sites you're actually visiting.
Early on, you might spend a bit of time categorizing some sites and apps (e.g. how would it really know what you want to categorize your time in your CRM as? "Sales", "Business Development", "Relationship Building" maybe? Or something super general like "Work").
The true strengths of Rize are its beautiful reports (also automatically sent over via email on a weekly/monthly basis, to let you know how focused you've been and how to improve some of your habits):
Issues start arising pretty quickly though when you get to the granular levels. Like right now, I'm in Webflow writing content, so that's "Content Creation", right? Nope—I already have a rule that assigns Webflow time as "Web Development", because most of the time that's true. You can probably see where the inaccuracies start arising from this though, and I'd ask you how that can really ever be solved? It's such an obscure complexity that doesn't even seem like a place that OpenAI can help alleviate.
Now while you can go deeper and track your time against "Clients" and "Projects", things are made abundantly clear that this area is just an "add-on" as it isn't very powerful, intuitive, and is totally lacking team features. For this reason, I would not rely on Rize for any critical client time reporting.
All-in-all, Rize is very much an individual productivity-focused time tracking tool, and it does a phenomenal job at that. If you're looking for something more for your team and actual deep reporting on budgetary usage and team capacity planning, you'll definitely want to pick out a team-focused time tracking tool like Harvest or Toggl.
One major thing to note, Rize is a desktop-only app—there's no web app—so if that's important to you, you'll have to skip it for now.
The Automatic Tracker: Timely
At first glance, Timely appears to be quite a standout from competitors like Harvest and Toggl through their deep "automatic time tracking" capabilities (similar to that of Rize—although less powerful, just more team focused).
Time tracking is an incredibly tedious task, so the more that these tools can "do it automatically" (especially with the use of machine learning and AI), sounds like an absolute no-brainer, right? Well...
The same issues we mentioned in the Rize thoughts ring true here as well (although are made even a bit more confusing). Since you're probably like most people and spending most of your working time in the browser (e.g. Arc), you're just going to get long chunks of time labeled as your browser of choice. Along with hundreds of miscellaneous URLs thrown at you of which you're supposed to make some sense of:
With all of these "automatic time tracking apps", they are best at #1: Defining and categorizing the app you are in (e.g. browser = browsing) → And then #2: You're still in charge of making sense of all of that URLs you visited, connecting it all to the projects taking place.
Okay, so you're on Facebook Ads, that's clearly the "Ads" category, right? Right! But say you have clients, now are these Facebook ads for X client or Y client? It's impossible to know really, all these tools know for certain is that you spent a lot of time in Facebook Ads today, but you already knew that 😅
So with all of that said, only your team ultimately knows what internal/client work is done, and the actual tasks that are being had (and for how long).
If you're curious as to the additional pain-points that come from this even with a more powerful AI time tracking tool, go read about Rize (versus further reiterating here).
The Time Tracking + Billing Suite: Harvest
The biggest difference between Harvest and Toggl + Timely is that Harvest allows you to track time, and then spin up invoices based on the time tracked without ever leaving Harvest (with powerful invoicing/billing features).
But since we have the main category set to time tracking, lets focus on that for a moment—Harvest has a much more minimal approach to time blocking than that of Toggl and Timely. Now this is actually a good thing... Let me explain:
Harvest focuses less on the timeline/calendar view of time tracking (e.g. what did you get done at each time of the day), and is more focused on simply tracking categorized chunks of time (tasks) across clients/projects.
Their approach is more minimal in a way—versus throwing sometimes an overwhelming amount of data at you (which is intending to help you figure out what you did), actually results in a bit of overwhelm.
Most people we know that use Timely for example actually disable any auto-time categorization because as explained on the Timely + Toggl pages, it's nearly impossible to attribute the auto-tracked time to actual collaborative client/project work.
Harvest was actually built initially as internal tool for a marketing agency to track all of their client work which has since evolved to support hundreds of thousands of users at over 70,000 companies—so with Harvest, client reporting is deeply at the core.
Figuring out who is profitable, who is trending toward being over budget, and all the convenient billing/invoicing features to handle it all are all baked right in. (It even allows for recurring custom invoices and payment via PayPal + Stripe, along with a powerful native QuickBooks Online integration).
In the project view, you'll see every client, their projects, and detailed budget, spend, and costs all in one convenient place:
Harvest still integrates with your calendar like the other tools, pulling up your meetings for the day (and tasks if you're using a time-blocking tool like Motion). But the "what time of the day" is not important with Harvest, making it easier to just get in and out without obsessing over the details:
Harvest also has a super nifty desktop app for MacOS and Windows which allows you to see when your timer is running, and even allows you to remove the AFK (away from keyboard) time from your timer when you leave the computer and come back after forgetting to turn off your timer:
Here at Efficient App, we use and love Harvest. Have actually been using it for nearly a decade. Their powerful API has allowed us to also integrate Harvest deeply into many of our internal processes.
The Focused Time Tracker: Toggl
Toggl, like Timely are both heavily timeline/calendar-based tools—focusing on "what did you do at various times throughout the day". The thing is, do you really care about what time of the day you did something? Or just how much time was spent?
When we evaluated it, there was a bit of fatigue around having to think about the start/end time whenever you track time. Often times you're going to be more in the "I worked on X client task for 30 minutes", and the more friction involved in getting that added will result in more difficulty for your team building the habit of time tracking (it is a habit that needs to be formed over time).
Toggl was initially built as a basic "what have I done" start/stop tool, prioritizing that over the "track time against client/project", which can be seen in the importance each is laid out when tracking time.
Looking at their priority, it's set to: #1 what was done, #2 for what project/client?, #3 what tag (similar to "Harvest task"), #4 billable (or non-billable), #5 start time, #6 stop time, #7 finally "for how long".
Now take a time tracking tool like Harvest, which focuses priority #1 the client, #2 the structured task (billable/non-billable), #3 notes (optional), and #4 for how long (if blank, it just starts the time tracking clock):
Now imagine adding a task 5–10 times per day. With Toggl, you now have 3+ additional steps to think through each time with Toggl as opposed to Harvest. It just adds to more mental fatigue each time.
It's clear that Harvest was built for quickly tracking billable/non-billable time to clients and projects, while Toggl was built for tracking time against what was done (less importance around for whom and task structuring).
Now for the automatic time tracking piece, in comparing it to that of Timely...
While they don't go as far as automatically tracking your time for like Timely, it has the same flaws that Timely and Rize have in the area of automatically tracking "useful" data when 99% of most people's work is done in the browser.
You'll see in the desktop app that all of your time in the browser will simply be categorized as the browser's name (in this case, Arc):
So in terms of actually getting useful data from all of this monitoring of open apps and windows, you're not really getting much to go off of, especially when trying to remember what work was done, and for which client/project.
Of all the "automatic time tracking" tools on the market, Rize continues to be the best at producing the most comprehensive and usable data of them all—although it is more of an individual productivity tool than a comprehensive team time tracking tool.
A super important note is Toggl has absolutely no billing/invoicing capabilities. So while you can track all of your time, you're going to be manually creating invoices in a proper invoicing tool like that of QuickBooks Online (or even Harvest) to generate invoices from actual time tracked.
Of all the time tracking tools we've looked at that are team focused, we'd place Toggl at #2, but still a non-starter if any semblance of invoicing capabilities are needed.
Our Final Thoughts
Of all the time tracking tools we've looked at that are team focused, we'd place Harvest at #1 (as it's the most user-friendly and well-rounded), Toggl at #2 (but still a non-starter if any semblance of invoicing capabilities are needed), and #3 is Timely (which we prefer over other time tracking apps like Clockify, Timetta, and others—we opted not to review those products as we believe they have an outdated UI/UX and are focusing more heavily on the "cheaper" market, a space we don't believe in for teams in the long-term).
For individual productivity, Rize is the clear winner—they have the most advanced auto-categorizing and are the most "set it and forget it". We just highly recommend using one of the other tools mentioned if team collaboration is at all necessary for your time tracking tool.
Need help integrating any of the time tracking tools mentioned? Things like automatically creating clients and projects in your time tracking tool upon opportunity won in your CRM, etc. Be sure to let us know what you'd like done!
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