Quick Tip: Find Out Where You Waste the Most Time

on July 29, 2014 in Productivity & Organization

In July's writing challenge, we focused on productivity. And I think a follow-up quick tip is a good way to close things out. Even if you didn't take part in this month's challenge you can use one of these techniques on your own time.

The best thing you can do if you want to improve your productivity as a writer is to figure out where you're wasting time so you can reallocate it to more important tasks. Here are two possible ways you can do that, both explored in this month's challenge:

  1. Use a time tracking app, like Toggl, to keep track of how you spend your working hours. That includes client writing, work on your books, time spent on blog posts, emails, research, social media, browsing the Web, etc. Everything.
  2. If you prefer to focus on word counts, keep track of every single thing you write over the course of a week including emails, social media updates, blog posts, client work, text messages, outlines and notes, etc. Then tally up your total word count to find out how many "wasted" words you write in a day that could otherwise go towards billable hours, your books, or your blogs.

I went the word count route for the challenge, and I was surprised (well, maybe) to find that I could make time for another few thousand words every day if I wanted to scale back social updates and emails to bare bones basics. My plan is to strike a balance somewhere in the middle. But if nothing else, I'm much more aware of the time I spend writing and whether or not that time is being well spent.

Do you have a favorite time tracking tool? Are you interested in finding out what your biggest time wasters are, or are you pretty sure you already know? Tell me about it in the comments.

On a related note, remember that tomorrow is the last day to vote for August's writing challenge. Get your vote in while you can, and join us on the forum to discuss your progress.

Thanks for sharing!
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers, NakedPR.com, BizAmmo.com, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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  1. KeriLynn Engel July 30, 2014 Reply

    Wow, Toggl is awesome! I actually just recently created a Google form & spreadsheet with fancy pie charts and everything to see where I spend my time. But it looks like Toggl does all that fancy stuff & more. I might just have to give it a shot.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern July 30, 2014 Reply

      Let me know what you think of it! I haven’t played around with it much because my biggest concern was where time was spent on my own projects this time around. But time tracking is a great way to make sure you’re really being paid as much as you think you are. Scope creep isn’t a freelancer’s only concern on that front. Sometimes we’re the ones who sabotage our own earnings.

  2. Anne Wayman July 30, 2014 Reply

    Hmmm… I love toggl for time tracking… think I’ll do a week or so of word counts… sounds helpful.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern July 30, 2014 Reply

      I found that I had days where I was writing over 5k words outside of work projects — email was my biggest problem area. Basically I’m wasting a book (or a few shorter e-books) worth of words on email. That’s an eye-opener. Of course it’s not all “wasted.” It’s client communication, answering prospects, taking reader questions for various sites I run, and keeping in touch with colleagues. But there is definitely room to cut back and put that time toward other projects. I hope you manage to find extra time in your own tracking. 🙂

  3. Sharon Hurley Hall July 31, 2014 Reply

    I’ve used RescueTime in the past because it automatically notes the sites where you spend time – that way you can tell whether you’re really doing online research or updating social media. 😉

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern July 31, 2014 Reply

      That sounds like a great find Sharon. You always share such neat tools! 🙂 <— Side note for everyone else: Sharon was the source behind quite a few of my must-use tools. She always has great recommendations, so make sure you check out some of her posts and reviews over at her own site or on client sites (I believe you have some reviews up on the CrazyEgg blog, right Sharon?) 🙂

  4. Angela Booth August 4, 2014 Reply

    I use Repeat Timer Pro to time everything, so that I produce, rather than spending too many minutes on “research.” I also track word counts on projects, so that I know I’ll meet deadlines.

    Until recently however, I wasn’t tracking how many words I write each day in emails and other client interactions. Big mistake. 🙂 After just a few days, I’ve discovered that I spend way too much time — and too many words on them.

    My new resolution: keep it short. Pick up the phone, and then time the phone calls.

    If I stick to this new system I can potentially save up to two hours a day. Amazing. That translates into another couple of thousand words a day.

    Great topic, Jenn. 🙂

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern August 4, 2014 Reply

      Exactly. It’s easy to feel like we don’t have enough time, until we pay closer attention to how our time is actually spent!

  5. Megan January 14, 2016 Reply

    Hey Jennifer,

    Toggl is nice stopwatch but for detailed time tracking I prefer automatic time tracking apps such as adaptrm.com

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