Using Punchtime to time record on Trello cards

I am feeling a little cock- a hoop right now because I have finally after much toil and frustration worked out how to set up a timer to link with my Trello Boards. ( I wrote about those as part of my Awesome System here).  Now I know how to do it, its very easy and I love my system. So to save you all the grief I had (partly due to user stupidity and partly due to less than helpful help pages and a non-functioning browser extension) I will set out below in straightforward steps how to use Punchtime with Trello.

But first, why the heck would you want to do that? There were three reasons I set this up

  1. To aid in pricing my work.

Not every artist uses an hourly rate to price their work as I do, but even if you use other methods, it make sense to calculate backwards what you are earning per hour. There is no point pricing your work per square  inch and not realising that you actually have to work 43 hours a day to create enough inches at that price to pay for your paint.

2. To be able to realistically plan your days

There is nothing more demoralising than having a full studio day  and a to do list you barely make a dent in. When that happens to me its often because I underestimate how much time it takes to do a task. If you routinely time what you are doing, you will begin to get a feel for how long, say, photographing an art work and adding it to your website, actually takes. ( Hint: in my studio its always longer than I hope!) Similarly, I have fits of naïve enthusiasm when estimating how many art works I can produce for a show in three weeks time. Knowing how long each work I made previously took enables me to look at my calendar and time available and have a better idea of what I can commit to.

3. To assess how I spend my day

Busy does not mean productive. Productive does not necessarily mean I am meeting my key goals. A method of time recording allows me to see if I am putting my time to my priorities or the busy art biz work that is productive yet at at the same time procrastination from my more important (and scary) goals.

What is Punchtime? And what is Trello?

Trello is a web and app based programme based on the kanban card system. In essence you set out boards for different areas of your life. On those boards are lists, on the lists, cards. The cards can have attachments and notes and reminders. There are many creative ways to adapt Trello for your needs. At its simplest you can have a board for an project. List of steps to be done, steps you working on and steps completed. Each card is a task ( or step) you need to complete. The cards can be dragged from list to list as you work on your project so you can see progress very visually. I wrote previously about how I use it and  about how I linked it to a calendar.

Punchtime is a free  timer app that links to Trello.  It allows me to quickly tap on my iPhone or desktop when I start a task and to log what it was I am doing. That can be linked a Trello card. I can then see how much time I have spent on the Board overall and each card shows the time on the individual step.

So, for example, I have a board which is Art Making. The lists are To Do, Doing and Done. Each card is a particular art work. Let’s say the art work is called Blue Liverpool Skyline . As I log time on the card  called Blue Liverpool Skyline, I can record how much time it took to paint the fabric, to piece the top, to quilt, to collage, to stretch, and hangers etc. So, I can see at a glance how long  the art work took in total and also whether one step was particularly time consuming. Equally I can use it for Art Biz tasks. I often squeeze these into small bits of the day and its helpful to see how that time added up.

How I set it up.

Step One Prepare Trello for Punchtime .

(These steps presume that you already have a Trello account and boards set up. To open a Trello account is as easy as entering email and password – go here.)

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 12.37.38When you create a Trello card, you get the option to add yourself as a member. It seems daft if you are using Trelo as an individual, rather than an team in the workplace, but for Punchtime to work you need to add yourself as a member to each card. Just click on Members and click on your name.

Step two – iPhone App

  1. Go to iPhone App store, search for Punchtime and download the app.
  2. When you open the app you get this screen.


  1. In the “what are you working on box’ I add the particular action I am taking at this moment. So, if I am working on making Blue Liverpool Skyline  I might add in there painting fabric or stitching down collage as appropriate.
  2. Label allow you to use the same colour lables you set up in Trello. I pretty much ignore those.
  3. The card symbol is the crucial part. Click on that and it allow you to add the log to the card in question – in my  art example, Blue Liverpool Skyline. In this image you can juts see the beginning of the card name HCD blog post whites the timer I have running as I write this.
  4. Click on the timer arrow button botton left and the timer starts. When you have done your work click on log and the time will be added to your Trello Board.IMG_4342

Step Three – Add Punchtime to Chrome

I confess is where I find a huge disadvantage is that this will only work on Chrome and not Safari. But its good enough.

(I should say there is in theory a Safari extension but it simply would not work for me.)

  1. Download Chrome from here  if you don’t already have it
  2. Get the Chrome Punchtime extension from here 
  3. Click on ‘add to Chrome’.
  4. Within Chrome go to the web version of Trello.
  5. You will see that your card now has a Punchtime logo at the top ( little green logo with time in it) and also Punchtime options at the side. Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 13.27.57
  6. To log time direct from here rather than the app click on the diamond icon that is now at the top right of your Chrome tool bar ( you can just see it in the image below) and follow the same steps as for the iPhone timer above.
  7. To see all the accumulated time on a card, click on the green Punchtime icon on the card itself. This will open a new browser with Punchtime itself and will give you the activity tracker for the card in which you can see all the steps you have taken. The app gives Trello cards numbers but you don’t have to remember them to use the system.Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 13.31.34
  8. it is also possible to add back in time you forgot to record as you were actually doing the work.  Two options exist for that. First, within Chrome, on the Trello card click on add log. The VERY IMPORTANT step is that when adding in the information in’ What are you working on?’ you have to add a #. When you type that it offers you the card list. if you don’t do that the time gets added to the board but not to the card. Which is VERY irritating and that nugget of information took me a long time to fathom out. Which is why I am telling you 🙂 The second option is to just use the timer and drag the clock symbol at the bottom of the timer to the time you actually worked then add the other information as usual.

This system is not perfect. I would like not to be tied to Chrome. Plus the extension does not work on the iOS version of Chrome. So the only place I can see the accumulated time recording is on my desktop. The Punchtime details do not show up on cards in the Trello app for iPhone or iMac. The timer will be recording it OK, its just that you can only see it in the Trello web version. This is a quirk that will not be resolved I don’t think until Trello get on board with a native timer which they say they would like do but there is no sign of yet.

Also, if you move a card containing time on Trello to another board it seems to wipe its time recording which is irritating.

That said, given this is a free system, once set up as I describe, it is very easy to use ( as long as you remember that #tag tip) and gives me the information I need  to be a more efficient and knowledgable artist. Let me know what you think if you decide to give it a try.



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