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

Another possibility is Clockify, a free "simple time tracker and timesheet app that lets you and your team track work hours on projects."  With Clockify you can use a timer or a spreadsheet to keep track of your time on tasks and projects, and it sounds like it has some nice reporting functions.  Because it has team capabilities, you can use it for bigger projects like an co-edited anthology, group blog, or small magazine.  Paired with a free "collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards" like Trello, you could get a lot done.

If you're a KISS kind of person and want to keep it really simple, try using a weekly "time card" spreadsheet.  I've created a free Google worksheet you can download here.

Whichever method you choose, a time tracker can improve your productivity and enable you to make the most of the writing time you have.  Leave a comment - let us know what you do and how well works for you.

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