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Tiller is a little puck that tracks where your time has gone

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Tiller Image: Joan

Do you ever wonder how long you spend reading emails or doing research? A little device named Tiller may be able to get you an answer.

Tiller is a small puck that plugs into your computer to help track your tasks. Tap it, and it’ll start timing you. Tap again, and it’ll stop. Spin the wheel on top, and a minimal interface will pop up on screen, letting you scroll from one task (say “emails”) to the next (maybe “writing” or “coffee”).

It’s all really simple, and it’ll definitely appeal to anyone obsessed with tracking data on their own habits. The fact that Tiller is a stylish accessory might make it appeal to a certain nerdy crowd, too.

Tiller comes from a small Australian design firm named Joan. This is Joan’s first hardware product, and the company’s been working on it for more than two years. The idea came out of the company’s own desire to better manage and track its time. “We were trying to run the business better,” says Nick Hallam, one of Joan’s co-founders. “Apps weren't working.”

Tiller Image: Joan

The product isn’t just for data geeks. Tiller is targeted mainly at freelancers and workers who takes clients — lawyers, designers, consultants — and need to bill by the hour. “So many freelancers in the creative space, even in the legal space, are selling time to clients but don't know if they're profitable or not,” Hallam says. His hope is that Tiller will let freelancers correctly bill clients or better determine what their time is worth.

I got to see a quick demo of Tiller, and — even though I wouldn’t buy it (I have no reason to track my time) — I really liked the style and simplicity of the device. There’s something nice about having a sleek, single-purpose gadget right beside you at all times. Its soft material is nice to touch and and turn, and the software it hooks into (it works on both macOS and Windows) is stripped down in a way that looks surprisingly cool for a time-tracking app.

Image: Joan

Of course, there’s always the possibility that, like buying a Fitbit to encourage yourself to run, you might pick up a Tiller and then leave it sitting on your desk, ignored. Hallam says he doesn’t think Tiller will work for people who have never tracked their time before. It’s intended, he says, to get people who are already tracking their time to do a better job.

Part of that, he says, is having the physical device right in front of your workspace — a desktop, he suspects, for the typical Tiller customer. There’s also a dot of light in the center of the device, which lets you know it’s recording and serves as a reminder. “I don't know how many times I get up, see my light's on” and remember to pause it, says Hallam. “We definitely believe the hardware makes a big difference.”

Development on Tiller’s hardware is already wrapped up, says Hallam, and all that’s left to do is have them manufactured. Joan is launching a Kickstarter today, where it’s looking to raise $68,000 AUD (around $54,000 USD) to fund the run. Tiller units sell for around $89 USD to $119 USD to Kickstarter backers, and they’ll eventually cost $129 USD when the product is for sale off platform.