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Time management tip for writers: keep a work diary


If you find yourself vowing to do some writing but then reach the end of the day not really sure where the time went, I strongly advise keeping a time diary for a few days. Make sure you pick days which are fairly typical in terms of your planned schedule.

Write down EVERYTHING you do during the day, along with a time stamp. Yes, everything. Don't be embarrassed -- you're going to throw this out when you're finished, so no one else will see it.

I tried this and was horrified at how much time I was wasting or frittering away on non-work activities. The exercise really makes you more conscious of how you're spending your time.

These days I still try to keep a work diary, but not nearly so detailed...just enough to help keep me on track.

Has anyone else tried this exercise?

Reader Comments (13)

I've done this, although more for day job work than writing work: I have a history of difficulty focussing on things, especially ones I don't find interesting, so this was a good exercise in showing me where I was struggling to stay on task.

Good idea to apply the technique to personal creative pursuits, though.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDunx

Hi Debbie! Time management is a constant challenge for me. Yes, I've tried writing down everything I've done. I called it my "Ta-Done" list (sorta the opposite of a "To-Do" list.) Right now I'm pacing my daily activities using Google Calendar.

This works great for me as most of my work throughout the day is done online. I'm a content writer and a novelist, and I tend to work during all my waking hours except for daily walks with the dog and my errand hour at 4pm.

I think the most helpful thing in time management is to create habits of doing certain things at certain times. It is also important to be flexible because emergencies and other distractions happen. They're part of life and we must be realistic about time and how it is used.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jo Martin

Great recommendation! I found this very helpful when I was encouraged to use this method while still in school as a study skill/strategy. I _thought_ I was aware of how much time I was wasting, but it's incredible to look your day spent in greater detail. It allows you to see how much time you're dedicating to priorities, and which items to cull a bit (for example, 4 hours checking RSS feeds or Facebook or so forth can be 2 or even 1 hour every morning/evening).

Good luck everyone!

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterydelyn

omg I need this. It's going to horrify me as well. I think I did this once and discovered that I spent like 75% of my time on the computer.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSophia the Writer

I've never even thought about keeping work diary. That might be handy because I always lose track of time and never get around to everything I want to.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCheree

I'm a big time waster, and I admire writers who aren't. R.F. Delderfield, the English author of family sagas, wrote 33 pages each day, and he wrote until four o’clock in the afternoon. If he finished a novel at three o’clock, he rolled a clean sheet of paper into his typewriter, and began the next novel, and worked until quitting time. He credited a daily swim in the English Channel for his prodigious output.
Another English writer, Charles Hamilton—who used twenty-five pseudonyms, the most famous being Frank Richards—was so prolific that George Orwell accused him of being a team of writers. Hamilton responded, “In the presence of such authority, I speak with diffidence; and can only say that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, I am only one person, and have never been two or three.” He wrote a million and a half words a year, or about twenty pages each working day (assuming 250 working days in a year). That’s 15 novels of 100,000 words every year, a novel every 24 days, counting Sundays

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thayer

I write down everyday I plan to do. Lol! It's the only way I would remember to do it.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLM Preston

It all boils down to being a disciplined person.I mean tracking what we do daily in our lives.

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbdullahAhmad

Dunx: Good idea about using this for other creative pursuits as well!

Linda Jo: Heh, I like your list name: "Ta-Done" list :-D

VDelyn: I agree -- the method helps you see where you're putting your priorities.

Sophia: You can't possibly be as horrified as I was. :-)

Cheree: I found keeping a word diary really useful. Do let me know if you try it!

James: Thanks for those fascinating & inspiring anecdotes. How do you know all this?? You should write a book. :-)

LM Preston: Do you write on paper on in the computer?

Abdullah: Agreed. Some of us are more disciplined than others, though. :-D

January 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterDebbie Ridpath Ohi

I've been doing this recently, and it's been very revealing to say the least. I didn't know how much time I spent just surfing the Internet!

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLee Cole

I should try this. I HAVE tried making up a schedule for my whole day: get kids off to school from x time to y time, eat from y time to z time, work out from a time to b time, etc. I even included time to vacuum and dust and shower and cook food and everything. But I wasn't disciplined enough to stick to it. I think discipline is the key for me - being able to find a really awesome website or blog right before I'm supposed to stop surfing writing blogs and say to myself, "This can wait until tomorrow; I need to write for two hours now."

I really need to work on that.

January 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIshta Mercurio

I decided to start keeping track of where my time was being spent when I started out working early in the morning and all of a sudden it was time to start dinner. Working on my eight websites and doing my dog rescue work left me little time for exercise or playing with my five min pins. My favorite part of writing is research. I can get lost in doing research. Sometimes I think I'm addicted to reading!
So I was happy when I found a Mac App that is easy to use and keeps track of my time. It is called Stone Hill Time Card. Now I can see where my computer time is being spent. It was free when I downloaded it and it probably is still free now.

January 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Rogers

Wow!-designer Moschino T-shirtsI totally impressed!

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterArnold

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