TaskBlaze is a nifty little “tell-a-friend-ware” application that you can use to keep track of your activities by the minute. It integrates with Outlook and and will record an entry in your calendar showing blocks of time you’ve spent on various tasks, which you identify with tags.
Running the application couldn’t be simpler – just fire it up, enter a task name and some tags (optional), then click the Start button. When you stop working on the task, hit Stop. I’ve found this tool to be really helpful when I’m doing things like regression testing and writing test cases. It’s great to be able to go into an estimation session and have hard numbers to back up my testing estimates – “Yes, according to my log, I spent exactly six hours testing that feature. If this one is similar, let’s put about six hours in the estimate for it.” Of course, you can always manually track your time when testing and enter your hours on a log (I usually use a spreadsheet or some kind of Word document with a table, broken out by task and/or test case), but having each minute logged by TaskBlaze can be a real eye opener! (And yes, you can pause it while you go to the bathroom or hang out at the water cooler.)
Other things I like about TaskBlaze: it’s small, doesn’t use a lot of resources, and is basically just an executable you can run from anywhere (if your workplace IT policy is stringent and you don’t have admin rights to your work-provided PC, chances are you can still run TaskBlaze). Note that it does require the Microsoft .NET framework, but if you’re using a PC with a relatively recent version of Windows, you probably already have that (however, Mac users are out of luck on this one).