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Punching into My Own Timeclock

Freelance Writing ClockBy Helen Kaiao Chang

As a freelance writer, it’s easy to have all the time in the world, all the flexibility in the world, all the freedom to piss away your hours, so you don’t know how you spent the days. A timesheet keeps me accountable – to me.

I started tracking my time two years ago.  In my Excel spreadsheet, I recorded every 15-minute increment of time, from the moment I woke up to the time I went to sleep.

For example, on Thursday, November 6, 2008, I started my day at 7:30am meditating; ate at 8:30am; checked email for work at 8:45am; 9:30am emailed friends; 10am talked to business contacts; 10:30am cooked; 11am wrote a story; 11:45am went to see the doctor; 1:30pm bought groceries; 2:45pm wrote that story; 4:45pm ate; 5pm wrote more of that story; 6:15pm went to my spiritual center; 9:45pm wrote; 10:30pm went to bed.

As you can see, I like to eat. Being that specific about my time kept me accountable. I could justify spending time to take care of my well-being, but I also needed to put in enough writing hours.

At the end of each month, I added up the hours I spent in each category:

  • Management (planning the business)
  • Sales (pitching stories, talking to potential clients, etc)
  • Marketing (working on my Web site, attending professional events, etc)
  • Working (like, actually writing)
  • Finance (paying bills, invoicing clients)
  • Admin (filing paperwork, running errands)
  • Well-being (eating, praying, loving – hey, that could be a book title!)

Then I even broke each category down by percentage. That November, for instance, excluding the time spent for well-being, the breakdown was:

  • Management – 7%
  • Sales – 16%
  • Marketing – 8%
  • Working – 33%
  • Finance – 15%
  • Admin – 12%

I spent more time in November on finances, because it was the end of the year. But I worked more in September, when my working time was 57%, finance 4% and admin 4%.


By the end of 2008, I had a clear picture of how much time I spent doing what. But I was also tired of all the meticulous tracking.  In 2009, I decided to follow my intuition and let it go.

But now, I want to be accountable again. I’m filling in those timesheets again.

Oops, it’s time to go!

Helen Kaiao Chang is a ghostwriter, editor and journalist, specializing in business and motivational topics. She may be reached at www.ghostwriter-needed.com.

How do you keep yourself accountable about time?

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • I think the percentages will tend to change for every individual. This however is a good rough estimate on where we should pretty much spend our time.

  • I met Helen at a SBI conference in San Diego last year… awesome speaker with some great writing tips to share!

    I just retired a month ago, and started to write whatever I did each day on a calendar… never considered timing it all. I want to be able to assure myself I’m not wasting my days. I want productivity on my websites… and I will immediately follow Helen’s lead and track my time more carefully.. details, details! Makes perfect sense!

    Thanks Helen!

    • Anne

      You’re right, Helen is awesome…

  • I love this type of thing. I don’t quite do it like you do, but every once in awhile I totally plan my days in advance by using my Palm. I also have to plan when I eat to make sure I eat, and of course I have to plan when I’m working out as well. I find I get a lot done when I do that, but if I did it even more often, I’d probably be more productive.
    .-= Mitch´s last blog ..Customer Service / MS Excel Seminar & Webinar; Sticky Post =-.

    • Anne

      I’m just barely learning to track my time…

  • Our sociology teacher in high school made us do this, so we’d have a feeling of where our time went. It was a good exercise. I did this at work, once. I was shocked to discover that the productive time actually spent on projects was only about 50%, and that was on a good day. It’s amazing how much time we can fritter on miscellany.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

    • Anne

      lol, miscellany… yes, a real time sink…

  • I’d try it too although an hourly thing would work better for me. If I were doing small tasks that only took a few minutes, then I would mark it down.

    I tried doing that at work to see how much time I spent doing other peoples’ work instead of my own (part of my job description falls under the onerous “Other duties as needed”), but there were simply too many interruptions. I literally cannot start something and finish it in one fell swoop. I can’t even finish speaking a sentence!

    At least if I were home, there wouldn’t be anyone else here.
    .-= Elizabeth West´s last blog ..Jitterbug =-.

    • Anne

      I can track my money, but I’m not yet good at tracking my time… I’m beginning to see the value, but I haven’t made it work yet. I’ll consult with Helen again.

  • This is something I need to do myself. I’m sure there is a lot of time I could be using a bit more wisely. I love the fact that this is such a simple idea too. Although I have to admit I’m not sure I could do it every 15 mins lol. I commend you for that.

    Great post, I think I’m going to try and implement this sometime.
    .-= Christopher´s last blog ..Over Selling and Keeping in Touch =-.

  • Awesome post! This is great informtion. As much as I have read about time management and scheduling, this is one of the most simple, yet enlightning ideas I’ve encountered. I don’t think I would want to stop every quarter hour and write down what I had been doing for the last fifteen minutes…I’m not that good, I’d never get anything done. But this is definitely a novel idea, at least to me.
    .-= Trina L. Grant´s last blog ..Professional Networking a Modern Marketing Solution =-.

    • Anne

      Helen’s good. Good writer too, and a good person… another I’m delighted to count as friend.

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