Monday, January 28, 2019

Time Tracking Tools for Writers - Getting Started

You know you need to keep better track of your time, but how can you do it easily, without spending a lot of money?

Many software companies offer a brief free trial, followed by a monthly fee or subscription.  If you are making enough money on your writing to justify an expense of $60 or more per year, go for it.  If you're just starting out, or if you are a poet like me, you might prefer something a little less pricey.  You can always upgrade after you make the New York Times Bestseller List.

I personally use Caato, a free time tracker that lets me know how much time I'm spending on each writing task.  I can enter the times manually, or I can let it keep track of my work time down to the second.

If you were to enlarge this screen shot, you'd see that so far this year, I've spent an inordinate amount of time clearing my desk - which seems low-level but I've gotten really tired of not having room to work, so this really is a first-quarter priority for me.

Another embarrassing insight is that I've spent a lot of time on "NOS" (not otherwise specified) tasks, so in February I'll be watching that category closely, to make sure I'm really using my time well, and not just puttering about at my desk.  It's pretty easy to avoid the hard work of writing by playing at it, and I'm always prone to falling into rabbit holes.

If you don't use a Mac or if you also use mobile platforms, Caato won't be the best choice for you.  Fortunately, there are a myriad of options out there for every computer, tablet, phone and gadget imaginable.  Here's a link to a really useful list from

Friday, January 25, 2019

Time Tracking Tools for Writers - Why?


Effective time management skills may seem more appropriate for a Fortune 500 executive than a freelance writer, but creative people may need good time management tools and habits more than anybody else on the planet.

Think about it - we are busy, creative people with obsessive tendencies who are interested in everything, who may fixate on a new idea or task and forget everything else or who may be distracted by almost anything in our environment.  Most of us have to write in odd moments while holding a full-time job and/or raising a family.

To make things worse, we're writing in a constantly changing environment, with markets that are evolving and an industry that provides less editing and marketing support to writers.  We have to take on many of the promotional and marketing tasks which were previously handled for us by publishers.

Oh, and did I mention that many of us are novices, beginners who are on the steep part of the learning curve, where every task seems to take more time than we expected, and we experience more failures than successes, whether we're writing a first novel, self-publishing the first book of poems, or just stumbling through the revision process?  Even established writers have to be lifelong learners who are constantly experimenting and trying something new in order to keep their writing fresh or to keep up with changes in the market.

If you can't manage your time effectively, how on earth are you going to get your writing done?  You need tools and skills.

CREDITS - Artwork

  • "Man Typing" by wesd440. <>
  • "busy busy busy" by cactuscowboy <>

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Konmari'ing the Government?

I started watching "Tidying Up" on Netflix and was instantly enchanted.  Soon I found myself tidying the bedroom and scouring local stores in search of affordable little boxes to better organize my dresser drawers.

My much tidier drawer (You'd really be impressed if you had seen it before)

Then I noticed a strange phenomenon on Facebook.  My female friends are posting about how they Konmaried a closet; photos of beds covered in mountains of clothing are all over Instagram; news articles talk about how donations have increased over last January and consignment stores are overwhelmed, not with customers but with would-be sellers looking to get rid of their stuff.  Online, Marie Kondo's lovely boxes are sold out.  DIY-er's are posting instructions on how to turn cereal boxes into drawer organizers.


Our government's in a mess.  Ordinary citizens are powerless to fix it.  We can write letters, we can march in protest, but we cannot re-open the government.  Our president and Mitch McConnell seem deaf to our pleas.

Why not go tidy a drawer?  Or if you're furloughed, why not try to sell your stuff to make your mortgage payment?

When the Konmari movement hits the federal government, one of two things will happen:

  • We'll look at our President, and decide he no longer sparks joy.
  • The Republicans who want small government will think that it's time to shutter some agencies.

I have a problem with that second scenario.  Our government must do what we as individuals cannot, such as ensuring food safety, inspecting bridges, and controlling the spread of infectious diseases.  Making sure airplanes are inspected and safe to fly.  Oh, yeah, and securing our borders.  I almost forgot about that one.

At this point, I wouldn't mind Konmari'ing a few politicians.  But services that keep us alive?  Not so much.

I can't take this anymore.  I need to go tidy a bookshelf or something.