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7 Time Management Tools for Freelance Writers

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on August 11, 2014 in Productivity & Organization, Writers' Resources
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As a freelance writer do you ever feel like you aren't working to your full potential -- that you could get more work done if you could just eliminate some distractions and improve your productivity a bit? Fortunately there are plenty of time management tools that can help you do that. Today I'd like to share some of my favorite types of time management tools and some examples you might want to try.

Here are seven time management tools for freelance writers, in no particular order. Enjoy!

1. E.ggtimer.com

This is probably my all-time favorite time management tool. I use it to time working blocks using the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes working, 5 minute break, etc.). It makes work feel more like a game, which is one of my favorite techniques for increasing productivity. I always want to push myself to get more accomplished in each 25 minute block of time. You can choose to set any time block you want with this timer.

Try it.

2. Focus Booster

This is another online timer, but it defaults to the 25 minute Pomodoro working blocks. If you want to try the technique, but you worry you'll spend more time fiddling with the timer settings and testing out new work periods than actually getting work done, you might prefer the simplicity of this one.

Try it.

3. StayFocusd


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If you use Google Chrome like I do, this extension is a good way to eliminate online distractions. It lets you block access to distracting sites (like your social media accounts or webmail access) when you're working. There are similar extensions for other browsers if you don't use Chrome.

Try it.

4. Self Control

This tool is similar to StayFocusd, but it's specifically for Mac users. It lets you block access to both websites and mail servers. But be careful what you wish for. Once you set your timer, you can't turn it off. Even deleting the app or restarting your computer won't restore your access. If you're a total feed reader or social media junkie, this could be just what you need to break the habit during work.

Try it.

5. Toggl

Toggl is a great, and simple to use, time tracking app. It has an online interface, a desktop version, and a Toggl button for Chrome that works within other apps (like Google Drive, Basecamp, Any.do, and Trello).

Using Toggl is as easy as entering your project and hitting a start / stop button. The app takes your project times and spits back a report you can use to find out how much you should bill a client or where you might be wasting too much time.

Try it.

6. RescueTime

If your main concern is finding out where you're spending most of your time when you're at your computer, RescueTime is another good option. This one runs in the background and reports how much time you spend on specific websites or in certain applications.

This isn't an app I use personally, but I've heard good things from other freelance writers. I hadn't tried it previously because I tend to work with a lot of open browser tabs and applications,  and multiple monitors. I wasn't sure how the software would handle that. According to their FAQs, it shouldn't be a problem, so I might give it a go yet. I especially like the idea of being able to set and track goals (such as a certain number of hours spent on a particular task area or less than a certain amount of time on your biggest time wasters).

They say that they don't track "idle" time. Given that reading, phone calls, etc. can be big parts of our job, you might consider using the premium version which allows you to manually track your time spent away from your computer.

Try it.

7. ToDo.ly

Normally I would consider ToDo.ly more of a general productivity tool than specifically a time management tool. But no matter how many other Web-based or mobile apps I try for managing to do lists and scheduling tasks, I seem to keep coming back to this one. And it really does help me manage my time better. When I take the time to set up my weekly list there, I get more done during the week -- simple as that.

You can group tasks however you'd like as "projects" (by client, by type of work, by day of the week, one master work list, etc.). You can prioritize tasks in your list with color-coding, group them together in hierarchies even within a single project, set deadlines, and quickly postpone lower-priority tasks that you can't get to on any given day.

Try it.


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Have you tried any of these tools to improve your productivity and time management as a freelance writer? Do you have other favorite tools not included here? Tell me in the comments.

This post was originally published in 2012, but the list was updated with new resource additions for 2014.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.


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8 Comments

  1. Ruan Oosthuizen December 9, 2012 Reply

    I am definitely going to try out GraphicRiver,net, Jennifer. As one who likes to do my own design work as well as the fact that I simply love a beautiful graphic within my writing where it’s appropriate, I am sure this tool will come in handy.

    My favorite tool I only recently started utilizing to its full extent is Evernote. I know it’s more of a personal organizer but can you imagine how much time one can save just by having all your notes, articles to be read, etc all organized in one place? Let alone the capability to sync your data between your various devices.

    My favorite feature has to be the capability of adding the Evernote extension to Chrome and then being able to take web clips of your favorite articles for later reference or reading.

    Thanks for the share! I may be contacting you shortly with a guest post proposal! :)
    Ruan Oosthuizen recently posted…Case Study | The Birth Of A Freelance Blogger – Chapter 1 Part 1: “Fertilization”My Profile

    • Jennifer Mattern December 10, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for adding Evernote Ruan. I know plenty of writers who use it and love it (although I haven’t used it myself). I did see your guest post email come through. I’ll do my best to get back to you about it later day.

  2. Cathy Miller December 10, 2012 Reply

    Why am I suddenly feeling old that when I read subject lines like Stay Focused and Self Control, I don’t automatically think technology? :-)
    Cathy Miller recently posted…12 Days of Business Blog Post IdeasMy Profile

  3. Twin May 8, 2014 Reply

    Another tool i would like to recommend for time & project management is Proofhub. www.proofhub.com/

  4. Angela Booth August 11, 2014 Reply

    Great list, Jenn. Thank you. ToDo.ly is new to me, so I’ll try it out.

    I manage using Evernote, Trello, Things, and OmniFocus. Overkill, yes, but stuff still drops through the tracks. I end up thinking at odd times, “Didn’t I promise to do that… did I send that email… where are the meeting notes?”

    Re Evernote, it’s saved me more than once. A couple of years ago a hard drive failed, and so did two backups. Evernote kept me working without missing more than an hour of working time. My Mac tech rescued most of the data from the drive a few days later. It made me a believer in Evernote. Mind you, I live in fear that Phil Libin will sell it and the whole thing will go to the devil.:-)

    I use IFTTT recipes – https://ifttt.com/ to send material (email, scanned in paper documents, work files, stuff to read etc) to Evernote. I’ve been using it since 2009, and I weed out stuff regularly. Although it will accept 100,000 notes, I keep my notes count at around 6,000, otherwise it takes forever to restore when there are hiccups. Hiccups happen rarely. Nothing’s perfect, but Evernote has never lost any data, which is amazing, considering how much I use it.

    My favorite Pomodoro-style timer is Repeat Timer Pro, it’s excellent. I time most tasks, otherwise I’d end up working only on the stuff I enjoy, rather than doing horrible administrative tasks, or working on long projects which have lost their initial gloss.

    Nevertheless, I’m always behind on my day-to-day junk, so timing isn’t perfect. I tell myself not to put off administration, but I do, much more than I should.

    I’m a productivity nut; which means that I’m always looking for a magic bullet. Sadly, there probably isn’t one. Hope beats eternal. I just signed up for ToDo.ly — nice interface, and an iPhone app, too. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Angela Booth recently posted…Writing Nonfiction: Is Your Idea Book-Worthy?My Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern August 12, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Angela!

      I’ve never been able to get into Evernote. I’m not sure what it is that doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t find any particular fault with it. It just didn’t work for me for some reason. Maybe one of these days I’ll give it another try.

      Repeat Timer Pro looks like it works a lot like the Pomodoro app I use on my phone. It’s definitely a plus if the cycle will continue on its own. And if you have to do anything away from the computer, it’s nice to have the timer with you.

      From one productivity nut to another, if you ever find that magic bullet, please let me know! ;)

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