Working Toward $100,000: Time Management

Keep Track of Your Time to Maximize Billable Hourswww.inkthinkerblog.com — Part of my plan to make $100,000 in 2008 is to work more efficiently. I waste a lot of time each day by jumping around from project to project. I call it “multitasking,” but let’s call a spade a spade: I’m procrastinating.

In an effort to be more aware of “where the time goes,” which I wonder every day around 5 p.m. as I look at my barely dented to-do list, I’ve downloaded a handy-dandy piece of time-tracking software, imaginatively called Time Tracker.

The idea originally came to me from Anne Wayman, freelance writer extraordinare and host of both The Golden Pencil and About Freelance Writing, who posted about tracking your time in March 2006 and also during her 31 days to better freelance writing this past summer.

I must confess, it’s taking some getting used to. For instance, I forgot to turn it on to see how long I’ve spent on Inkthinker tonight. But so far I’ve been doing well with it, especially for daily work like the many resumes I write.

Knowing the timer is running keeps me focused, particularly as I try to beat my time for various tasks. It’s like a little game! But I need to be more consistent with it and make starting the clock as much a part of working as opening a Word document.

Once I know how much time I’m actually putting in each day, I can work on streamlining it. My goal? Four hours of actual and one hour each of marketing and bookkeeping each day, with the rest of the day open for my projects or just living life. And by the end of this year, I want to be there. Let’s see how it goes…

Resources for tracking your time:

There are lots of others, of course. Search for your platform (ie, PC or Mac) plus “time tracking software” or something similar and poke around to see what feels right to you. With so many free options available, I don’t recommend spending money on this (even thought it would be a writeoff).

How do you keep track of your hours? Leave a comment!

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Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King

31 comments… add one
  • Lori Jan 10, 2008

    Beyond a sticky note or scrap piece of paper alloting my time per project (insert red face here), I use Project Timer. It’s a cool little gadget that can be “pinned” to the top of your work to serve as a reminder to keep on task.

    If you can bottle efficiency, I’ll gladly buy the first case!

  • Anne Wayman Jan 10, 2008

    I don’t track my time all the time… just every quarter or so for a week, or even less… I want to be sure I’m more or less on track and that I have a pretty clear idea of how long it takes me to write whatever.

    I’m not sure efficiency is the goal… let me noodle this and then, of course, I’ll blot ;)

  • I’m a huge time waster too, and with my 2008 focus on my personal life, I need to start correcting that problem. Thanks for the advice.

  • Joanne Lozar Glenn Jan 10, 2008

    I’ve used Time Tracker for years. It’s a simple and wonderful product, and I use the reports function to keep track of billable hours, which makes invoicing much simpler.

  • Aurelius Tjin Jan 11, 2008

    This is a great tool. I can use it for my home based business. Procrastination is one bad habit we should not be into. Time is of the essence and time lost can never be regained. Good post! :)

  • Daniel Mcgonagle Jan 11, 2008

    I believe and agree with you that we basically waste valuable time if we don’t have something to track it with. Thanks for these tools you have just shared.

  • Aurelius Tjin Jan 11, 2008

    Slacking and procrastination are two enemies we should be watchful of. Sad part is, we battle as against ourselves when it comes to these. What we need to do is to discipline ourselves and make sure we make use of our time wisely. As the clich goes, time lost can never be regained.

  • Jenn Hollowell Jan 11, 2008

    This is something I honestly need to put more effort into. I use time tracking software for hourly gigs, but it never crossed my mind to use it to manage particular tasks. I use an egg timer for that. Longer, more complex projects would do better by use of the tracking software, though. Thank you for this post! :)

  • Jeb Avery Jan 13, 2008

    What a great goal! It is really hard to focus on the tasks that matter and not get distracted with things that seem more fun. I’m using “complete time tracking” http://www.complete-time-tracking.com to track my time (I use Windows).

  • Cosmina Stefanache Jan 14, 2008

    Admin note: This comment is indeed pure promotion, but I checked out then product and it looks like quite a winner, definitely worth exploring, which is why I decided to allow it. :) -kk

    Hi Kristen,

    Fanurio http://www.fanuriotimetracking.com helps with the less appealing aspects of freelancing like billing and keeping track of time. It’s a useful application, with a user-friendly interface.

  • Katharine Swan Jan 14, 2008

    I “multitask” as a way to procrastinate, too. My favorite: If there’s an article I don’t want to write, I do the research and maybe outline it, and then jump to another project to “let it settle.” Ha. I know very well it’s just that I don’t want to do it.

    Anyway, I’m tagging you for an easy little meme: All you have to do is blog about blogging.

  • Jessica Jan 14, 2008

    Hey KK, just letting you know I’m home in the Jerz so I can receive the IPOD :)

    I’m excited.
    Shoot me an email.

  • holli jo Jan 15, 2008

    I used to use toggl.com but then I got lazy. My time-wasting has skyrocketed lately, so I should probably go back to it.

    Thanks for sharing the tools you use.

  • Thanks for pointing this out. Multitasking can be just masked procrastination. My husband is a graphic designer and he uses timing software to track his time with various clients. I tend to use the old fashioned chart method for clocking in and out for a particular client, but find my system gets disrupted when the phone rings and I need to switch to another client’s more immediate needs. Thanks for the valuable reminder!

  • AnnaLisa Michalski Jan 15, 2008

    I’m not much of a multi-tasker. I learned long ago that I am far less productive that way. But I think you’re right: multitasking IS often just another word for procrastination! I suppose if a person feels busy, it’s easy to justify not getting a goal accomplished.

    Tracking time on everything, not just client time, is a fantastic idea. I’m definitely going to try that! I will be very interested to see how much time I’m really spending in marketing. I think I’m in for a shock. :)

    For tracking software, I use Time Stamp. It’s free, easy to use, and because it’s so small and straightforward, it runs without interfering with anything else that’s open. (You can find it through http://www.syntap.com.)

  • Dana Jan 17, 2008

    I work by a to-do list which ultimately works because I won’t go to bed at night until it’s clear but because of my bad habits of jumping around and getting distracted by things like e-mail, my favourite forums and the blogosphere

    I’m sure I could work much less if I worked smarter. I try to tell myself that I can’t do any of my ‘playing’ things until x # of words have been typed or x # of articles are done but that requires so much self discipline. Thanks for listing these tools I bet they’ll be a real eye opener for me.

  • China-Matt Jan 17, 2008

    I’ve never been good at time management. It’s gotten worse since moving to China–efficiency isn’t exactly a virtue here. I’d rather focus on the overall goals and end results than the time spent on reaching them.

  • Kelly Schaub Jan 18, 2008

    I’ve been using the pen and paper “write down start time…look at clock when interrupted and write that down…look at clock when restart…write stop time” method, especially when kidlet is home. Endless interruptions! I worked for seven hours last Saturday and it boiled down to three billable hours.

    These timers are an excellent idea–especially those that track every time you click from one window to the next…

    Thanks for the great information.

  • Chryselle Jan 20, 2008

    Hey KK,

    Looks like you’re still having problems with your ISP. Hoping you get back online soon.

    Chryselle

  • Sarah Jan 20, 2008

    Time management is a huge issue for anyone running a business. I am an mba student struggling to put what I am learning into running my own business while working a regular job forty hours a week. Enough said there. I have found James Brausch to be extremely helpful in freeing up my time as through him I have learned to automate many of my tasks. I look forward to reading your post at the end of the year to see if you hit your mark. Thanks

  • I use a MacBook Pro. I recently started tracking my time. I use iCal and FlexTime. I discovered FlexTime last week, and I am enjoying it immensely. It’s not a free software application. It cost $18.95, but you can try it out free for thirty days. As you mentioned you can write it off at the end of the year.

  • Curly Brace Jan 25, 2008

    Hi, just wondering, how do you plan on making the $100’000, blogging and online projects only? And how far is it from say 2007?

    Anyway, good luck on your projects, I’ll take a look at those programs and see if they help me :)

  • Allison Jan 26, 2008

    I write everything down in a good, old-fashioned day-by-day calender. It’s like using paper money instead of a credit card. There’s something about it that actually makes me think twice about my time (and my money!).

  • admin Feb 4, 2008

    Thank you guys so much for your awesome comments! I’m sorry I haven’t been responding — getting caught up now that I’m back online, rocking and rolling.

    @Curly Brace – I don’t plan to make it from blogging and online projects. They’re only a fraction of what I do. Check out the first two posts in this series:
    A Crazy Idea – http://tinyurl.com/3dnqry
    What Exactly Is $70,000 in Freelance Income? – http://tinyurl.com/2mddkn

    kk

  • Jennifer Feb 5, 2008

    I read this thread with interest. Although I see tremendous benefit in tracking one’s time (billable or otherwise), I also believe that relentless productivity is unsustainable.

    Ask any artist and they’ll tell you that an important part of the idea-generating process IS down time. Procrastination is often villified, but it can also be a great strategy for releasing the pressure valve so new insight and ideas can come through.

    I’m a big advocate for factoring “think-time” into billable hours. It’s all work – just not all of it is visible or measurable.

    And with that – I should get back to work. ;)

  • admin Feb 5, 2008

    Great comment, Jennifer! You raise some really good points and I’m looking forward to thinking about this more and exploring it further in future posts.

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