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Time Tracking for Better Writing

By on Feb 1, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

There is a great, oft-repeated maxim for becoming a great writer: Butt-in-chair; hands on keyboard. You can’t become great, or even write at all if you don’t adhere to that very simple principle.

Recently, I discovered a great tool that can help. It’s called Toggl. It’s a time tracking program designed for consultants and other business types. But it’s so easy and fun to use, that it works well for us writer types who don’t like to be bothered with administrative details.

And it’s free! (There is a premium version, but it cost less than a month’s worth of Starbucks tall lattes.)

Here’s how it works: you register; you fill in the task and project and hit the “start” button; when you are done, you hit the “stop” button. The program keeps track of how much time you spend on each task for each project over time. Sure you could do this with a stop watch and paper, but with Toggl, there’s no math! There are all sorts of ways to view the data. You can check how much time you have spent on one project, or combine a few. You can see where you have spent your time this week, or look back over the whole month.

For me, it’s been interesting to see how I am really spending my time. There are some things that I thought I took very little time but really took hours. There are other times when I’m sure hours have passed, but the timer revealed that I’d barely filled a commercial break.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s helped me be more disciplined. I can easily tell if I’ve really met my writing goals or  have been distracted with other tasks (indiscriminately surfing the web?).

On the whole writing goal discussion, I will note that there are those who reasonably argue that it should be more about content rather than time. For instance, they suggest setting a word count goal for the day. That’s useful and can be a great way to move along a project, but you may still want to track time so you get a sense of how long things are taking you.

By the way, including editing, this post has taken me 39 minutes. This doesn’t include posting.

-I didn’t get paid by Toggl to write this. I’m not even getting a discount. I just like the program and thought you might find it useful. I’m always looking for tools to make the work go easier if you have any other ideas…..

Toggl home page

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