Freelance Writers and Time Management

by Anne Wayman

Freelance Writers and Time ManagementHave you ever woken up with a sense of dread because you’re absolutely sure you do not have enough time to get it all done? That’s how I felt this morning – totally pressured and maybe even a bit panicked.

I’ve been here before – maybe you have too. I’ve learned a bit about what works for me to ease the stress.

There really are only 24 hours in a day

What seems to happen to me at some deep level some part of me believes I have infinite time. I’ll rock along with that notion until it collides with the reality of the 24 hour day. Then the stress and fear kick in.

This becomes, if you will, my first step. I recognize I’ve lost track of the fact that there really are only 24 hours in the day.

I start timing everything I do

The next step for me is to start timing everything I do – during my work hours. Okay, not everything, but most things.

What I want is a reality check. I want to know how what I’m actually doing stacks up against what I think I’m doing. I want a sense of how I’m spending my 24 hours each day. I track working hours because that’s where I feel the most pain.

I have a friend who had to track full 24 hour days to discover that she simply wasn’t getting enough rest. Others have used time tracking to bust themselves on too much social media time, chatting with neighbors, etc.

The trick is not to get to obsessed with tracking your time. I don’t try to separate thinking time from actual keyboarding time because I know I need some thinking or creative time. I do track breaks because I can get lost in those.

Exactly what you track is up to you. If you’ve never timed yourself you might want to start with a 24 hour day or two just to find out where you’re at.

Toggl is my favorite time tracking tool

I use Toggl as my time-tracking tool. It’s easy enough so I’ll actually use it. I’ve entered several generic categories, like this website, personal, etc. I also create projects for most of my clients. Then all I have to do is pick the project, enter the activity and click the big start button. When I stop, I click the big stop button.

At any point I can look and see how much time I’ve spent on what. I also use it to time my work for my hourly clients. It’s easy to generate a report on any single project or on a whole week. And yes, there are mobile apps available. Plus it’s free.

Toggl isn’t the only way to track time, just the way I do. Some people track their time with 3 x 5 programs. FreshBooks has time tracking to go with it’s bookkeeping and other features.

Both offer easy ways to track your time in multiple areas or projects. Both offer reports that allow you to get a true picture of how you’re spending time. Both allow you to track time for specific clients. FreshBooks add the ability to move that hourly information into an invoice, particularly helpful for writers who charge by the hour.

It doesn’t matter how you track time, just that you do – at least every now and again.

Reality for freelance writers and time management

Freelance writers and time management sometimes feel like trying to mix oil and water. We love doing what we want to do when we want to do it. There are often parts of our lives, like handling money and numbers, that we will ignore or try to.

Tracking my time even for a few days helps me get conscious about what I’m actually doing. With reality based information I’m in a much better position to make good decisions about how I spend my time.

Soon I’ll have a new ebook on Freelance Writing Jobs – get early notice plus a discount when you sign up.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer

 

 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

KeriLynn Engel August 28, 2014 at 10:42 am

Wow, I felt that way this morning, too! It’s an end-of-the-month thing for me. Can’t believe it’s almost September and I still have so much I wanted to get done in August!!

I actually just recently did an experiment with time-tracking, keeping a notebook on my desk and logging everything I did for the day. My main surprise was the amount of time I spent on email, so I ended up unsubscribing to a lot of newsletters.

I was also surprised to see how much time I spent on certain marketing tasks, and that realization helped me to shift my marketing priorities (and hopefully land more awesome clients!).

Next time I want to log my time, I’m definitely trying Toggl. This is the second time I’ve seen it mentioned for freelancers (Jenn Mattern wrote about it not long ago, too).
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Dava Stewart August 28, 2014 at 9:04 am

Whew. This one hits close to home. I need regular reality checks. I’ve also learned that I can’t reach really high levels of productivity consistently without taking time “off.” If I keep hitting mental walls, I need to go lay in a hammock or read a book or something so that my brain can do its thing in the background. It seems to work best when I build a few minutes of time for nothing into each day.
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Anne Wayman August 28, 2014 at 9:16 am

Yes, Dava… I too need time off or I hit those mental walls – foggy brain in my case. Doing nothing is one of my favorite activities.

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