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How Freelancers Waste Time

clockfacesOffice Time, the makers of time tracking software, do an annual survey about how working people kill or waste time. Recently, they filtered those results to pull out the stats for freelancers. Here’s how it broke out for activities a freelancer spends at least one hour on each day.

How they perceive the way they spend time

63% believe they don’t waste more time freelancing than they did when they worked for someone else.

77% say they waste time because of feeling stressed, while practically the same amount report “feeling inspired” and “other activities are more fun than real work” are key reasons for wasting time each day. Obviously they were able to cite more than one reason for wasting time.

82% track time because it provides better invoicing and revenue.

43% say Tuesday is their most productive day, while 47% say Friday is their least productive day.

How they kill time

Email: 53%

Surfing the Net: 47%

Watching TV: 42%

Procrastination (our one and only non-activity activity): 33%

Non-business related conversations: 24%

I’m not sure what to make of this – it certainly doesn’t fit my working day and the working day of writers I know.

Oh sure, I’ve been known to play solitaire, particularly if I’m waiting for the computer to do something. And I have been captured by a novel and read it during “working” hours occasionally. There are a few non-business friends who call me during the day, but not every day and we generally don’t talk long.

Because I track my time I’m sure I don’t waste as much time as I did when I was in an office and my response when I’m bored with a piece of writing is to get it done so I can move on to something else more interesting.

My hunch is if they would survey freelance writers who make a good living at their trade they’d find a whole different set of stats.

What do you say? Do you relate to these numbers? Do you know how you waste time? And how often?


Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Alan Cleaver

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • I used to be a full time freelancer and I tell you, random surfing is the biggest time-waster for me. I often get bored after a few hours of writing and end up searching for things and phrases that I find humorous. It’d take me somewhere from 30 minutes to an hour doing just that.

  • Email can still distract me despite my best efforts but all it really does is make for me working later into the day. Surfing very rarely distracts me – it depends what I am researching and where it takes me. Like the others who have commented here, I am amazed that TV is a distraction – shocking.

    Overall, I am more productive at home because I don’t have an office full of people with their own needs and agendas stealing my time.


    • I seem to distract myself, truth be told… some days I ignore email, others I don’t. I’m definitely more productive at home and enjoy it more.

  • jorgekafkazar

    My New Year’s resolution was to avoid wasting time by telling people how I waste time. But here I am again.

  • Surfing, for me. I go to research something and the next thing I know, I’m twenty minutes and twenty pages from where I began. 😛

    Works better if I do all my research first and make notes, then start writing.
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Star Trek: Into Darkness–J.J. Abrams’ New Romp is a Must-SeeMy Profile

  • Totally agree that I wasted more time as an employee. Or did it just feel that way? Thing is now I fill up my own schedule and to me, idleness is lost earning capacity.

    Email sucks up time, but not as much as surfing. I’m a serial surfer. 🙂

  • I’ve always been more productive when working at home – that hasn’t changed now that I freelance. I do find social media a bit distracting, but I’ve tried to handle email distractions by not looking at it at all when I’m writing and setting aside slots to deal with it. That’s a bit hit or miss. I don’t watch television during the day and usually avoid watching YouTube videos as well. Interesting stats, though.
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Writing Biz Lessons from the PastMy Profile

    • Working at home seems to be more productive regardless of who I’m working for.

  • Hello,

    Email used to distract me. I slip up here and there, but I’m quick to catch my misstep.

    I’m the social media manager from a non-profit (volunteer) so it would be easy for me to get sucked into social media, but I have a handle on it. I limit my time on my personal social media networks to 15 minutes per day or every other day. 🙂
    Amandah recently posted..Three Easy Twitter Tips and Tricks that Make You a Better Twitter UserMy Profile

    • You sound really self-directed, Amandah… good for you.

      I’m pretty good, and time most of my actvities which helps.

  • That watching TV one blows me away. I never do that and I have a TV in my office!

    I have always felt I was more productive at home than the office. Even when I was in corporate America, I had occasions that I worked from home. I concentrated better, and was much more productive. I found other people to be the biggest distraction in a work setting. But, I rarely talk on the phone (except for client work) during my freelance hours.

    For my freelance life, I would say my biggest distraction is when I stay too long on social media sites, be that blogs or LinkedIn. Even at that, LinkedIn is still part of work and networking so there are benefits to it.

    I try to limit my social media activity to ensure it doesn’t extend beyond what’s productive.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Social Media World: Being Too Big Is Not an ExcuseMy Profile

    • Yeah, the TV stat blew me out too… I don’t have a TV.

      Sometimes I think I should spend more time on social media… hard to find a balance.

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