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