Where does your time go? That’s the question time management experts ask their clients and followers. It’s the question we ask ourselves. Keeping a “time log” is a common tool for answering that question. The idea is every 10 or 15 minutes, you write down what you’re doing. Over time, the data reveals how you spend your days.

But exactly how and where will you record these entries throughout the day? This post provides an easy answer. That answer is free and uses the smartphone or smart speaker you already have.

Create the Time Log

Create a new note in Evernote and give it a descriptive name. Mine is Frank’s Journal. Select a notebook in which to place it. For me, this note goes into the Journal notebook.

The idea is that each time you want to add something to this log, it will be added to the bottom and preceded with the exact date and time it was created.

Opening Evernote, going into the Journal notebook, finding the note, selecting the edit feature, scrolling to the bottom of that note, keying the date and time, speaking the entry, saving the note, exiting the note, and exiting Evernote seems like a great deal of work.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way to do it. Listen to the podcast episode or watch the video to see an example. Now I’ll show you how I set it up.

If This Then That

Update: Due to a change Google instituted, as of August 31, 2022, the specific applet described no longer works. In addition, enhancements to Evernote required me to make a change in the IFTTT applet. For this reason, I created a new post, video, and podcast episode to reflect the updated procedure. Come over to https://frankbuck.org/evernote-voice-journaling/

IFTTT.com (If This Then That) is a service that allows two services to work together. In this example we’re going to use Google Assistant and Evernote together. (When this post appeared, IFTTT was free. There is still a free plan, but it is limited to three applets. Since what you see here requires only one applet, you would still be able to use the free plan.)

  1. Start by going to ifttt.com and logging into your account or creating a new one for free.
  2. Click the Create link in the upper-right corner.
  3. Click This.
  4. In the Search services window, enter Google Assistant.
  5. You’ll see several choices. Select Say a phrase with a text ingredient.
  6. On the next screen, enter a word or phrase you want to say whenever you want to log an entry into your time log, journal, or whatever you want to call this record. For me, it’s Frank’s Journal. Follow that phrase with a space and a dollar sign ($). The dollar sign serves as a placeholder for the activity you will enter. For example, you could say “OK Google, Frank’s Journal…Fed the dog.” Fed the dog will wind up being added to your time log.
  7. You’ll also be able to enter what you want Google Assistant to say in response to your command. I chose OK, Frank I’ll add this to your journal.
  8. Click Create trigger.
  9. Click That.
  10. In the Search Services window, enter Evernote.
  11. On the next screen, select Append to note.
  12. On the next screen, you’ll see a window where you will enter the exact title of the note that houses your log. You’ll also enter the notebook in which it is found.
  13. You’ll see a field that says To-do. This field is important. By default, it says TextField. That text field will automatically be filled in with the name of the activity. But you want more. You want to see the date and time this entry was created.
  14. Click just to the left of the TextField label to place the cursor at that spot. Just below the To-do field, click the Add ingredient button. Click on CreatedAt.
  15. Just from a standpoint of looks, I want the date and time to be bolded. I want the activity to be in plain text. Therefore I entered <b> just before CreatedAt and </b> after it.
  16. Click Create action.
  17. On the next screen, I recommend turning off Receive notifications when this Applet runs.
  18. Click Finish.

Start Using the Log

Each time you want to add something to your log, say the trigger word followed by the entry. For me, after ending a phone call I might say, OK Google. Frank’s Journal. Phone call with Mike about the workshop. I can use that command on my phone, tablet, or Google Home.

Google Assistant responds, “OK Frank, I’ll add that to your journal.” I’m done. Within seconds, I can look at the log and see my new entry appended to the bottom of the note. It’s also date and time stamped.

When a time log fails, it’s generally because it’s cumbersome. It means carrying around a chart and writing down activities. With this simple technique, you simply talk about what you’re doing as you’re doing it and let automation handle the rest.

If you’re looking for a way to keep up with where your time is going or simply log significant or interesting events during the day, give this digital option a try.