2013: Where Did The Time Go?

As much as I deal with words on a day-to-day basis, I still love numbers. In my opinion, an Excel spreadsheet is perfect for any occasion, just like a little black dress. With that in mind, I developed a spreadsheet for my writing work in 2013. My plan is to do this each year, so I can track time spent on different types of writing assignments. Eventually, I’d like to compare the time clocked to the pay earned. This may take a few months, as pay often lags the projects’ completion by several weeks.

Starting in March, I used Slimtimer.com, an online timesheet program, to track time spent on different tasks. Author Laura Salas mentioned the Web site in her book, WRITING FOR THE EDUCATIONAL MARKET, and I think it can be very helpful for writers.

This first year is not 100% representative of my work, since I started a couple of months in. But those first couple of months were spent working on proposals, many of which got go-aheads. The second caveat is that I’ve noticed I’m less likely to hit the timer when doing critiques, attending writers’ workshops, and writing some of my own picture books. If I’m not getting paid, I’m less likely to “punch in” even though the work is just as important. With that said, here’s a snapshot of where I spent my time in 2013:

Paid work:

  • Children’s magazines     17%
  • Children’s books (work for hire) 18%
  • Assessments    20%
  • Curriculum    27%
  • TOTAL paid work: 82%

Unpaid work:

  • Proposals, etc. that haven’t sold yet    7%
  • Picture books    11%  (probably a little low)
  • Critiques  3% (definitely low; I always forget to hit the timer for this)

Because of rounding issues, you’ll notice that the total is over 100%. But, I can still glean some information from the general trends. First, I definitely put in the time when there’s a contract and a deadline on the table. Getting paid for 80% of the work I did is pretty good in my opinion, since much of my work is on speculation. My busiest quarter was the last one of the year, when the assignments came flooding in.

The downside of being so busy is that my picture books fell off my “to do” list.  I did little work on my pet projects except for a some research here and there. It’s something I hope to change in 2014 by joining Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Picture Book challenge once more.

As a byproduct of using Slimtimer, I’ve become much more productive when I’m “on the clock.” I ignore emails, Facebook, etc. when I know the clock is ticking.

What’s your experience with Slimtimer? Do you have any other productivity tips or tools for writers?

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12 Replies to “2013: Where Did The Time Go?”

  1. That sounds great, Kirsten. I really don’t think I could analyse it all like that. I too fell off the picture book thing last year. Was so busy with other stuff. I think when that happens it’s better to cut it out and focus for a while and then go back to it properly instead of doing a half-hearted attempt. Best wishes for all your projects!

  2. I bookmarked the program in case I want to know the exact hours. Interesting. I was thinking the other day I need to be more faithful in writing down how long it takes items from 1st draft to publication. Thanks, Kirsten!

    1. I would be very interested to see that too. I have a pretty clear sense of how long it takes me to write a 4,000-page book, finish a 1,000-word article, etc. It’s really helped me in accepting job assignments too, since I have an idea of how long they’ll take.

  3. Sounds very interesting, Kirsten! I’m terrible about keeping track of time and money, so this would probably be very helpful! Fantastic that you got so much paid work this year, and so exciting that you’re going to have so many things published! 🙂

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