By 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.
Image from http://www.sxc.hu