As a freelance writer do you ever feel like you aren't working to your full potential -- that you could get more work done if you could just eliminate some distractions and improve your productivity a bit? Fortunately there are plenty of time management tools that can help you do that. Today I'd like to share some of my favorite types of time management tools and some examples you might want to try.
Here are seven time management tools for freelance writers, in no particular order. Enjoy!
This is probably my all-time favorite time management tool. I use it to time working blocks using the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes working, 5 minute break, etc.). It makes work feel more like a game, which is one of my favorite techniques for increasing productivity. I always want to push myself to get more accomplished in each 25 minute block of time. You can choose to set any time block you want with this timer.
2. Focus Booster
This is another online timer, but it defaults to the 25 minute Pomodoro working blocks. If you want to try the technique, but you worry you'll spend more time fiddling with the timer settings and testing out new work periods than actually getting work done, you might prefer the simplicity of this one.
If you use Google Chrome like I do, this extension is a good way to eliminate online distractions. It lets you block access to distracting sites (like your social media accounts or webmail access) when you're working. There are similar extensions for other browsers if you don't use Chrome.
4. Self Control
This tool is similar to StayFocusd, but it's specifically for Mac users. It lets you block access to both websites and mail servers. But be careful what you wish for. Once you set your timer, you can't turn it off. Even deleting the app or restarting your computer won't restore your access. If you're a total feed reader or social media junkie, this could be just what you need to break the habit during work.
Toggl is a great, and simple to use, time tracking app. It has an online interface, a desktop version, and a Toggl button for Chrome that works within other apps (like Google Drive, Basecamp, Any.do, and Trello).
Using Toggl is as easy as entering your project and hitting a start / stop button. The app takes your project times and spits back a report you can use to find out how much you should bill a client or where you might be wasting too much time.
If your main concern is finding out where you're spending most of your time when you're at your computer, RescueTime is another good option. This one runs in the background and reports how much time you spend on specific websites or in certain applications.
This isn't an app I use personally, but I've heard good things from other freelance writers. I hadn't tried it previously because I tend to work with a lot of open browser tabs and applications, and multiple monitors. I wasn't sure how the software would handle that. According to their FAQs, it shouldn't be a problem, so I might give it a go yet. I especially like the idea of being able to set and track goals (such as a certain number of hours spent on a particular task area or less than a certain amount of time on your biggest time wasters).
They say that they don't track "idle" time. Given that reading, phone calls, etc. can be big parts of our job, you might consider using the premium version which allows you to manually track your time spent away from your computer.
Normally I would consider ToDo.ly more of a general productivity tool than specifically a time management tool. But no matter how many other Web-based or mobile apps I try for managing to do lists and scheduling tasks, I seem to keep coming back to this one. And it really does help me manage my time better. When I take the time to set up my weekly list there, I get more done during the week -- simple as that.
You can group tasks however you'd like as "projects" (by client, by type of work, by day of the week, one master work list, etc.). You can prioritize tasks in your list with color-coding, group them together in hierarchies even within a single project, set deadlines, and quickly postpone lower-priority tasks that you can't get to on any given day.
Have you tried any of these tools to improve your productivity and time management as a freelance writer? Do you have other favorite tools not included here? Tell me in the comments.
This post was originally published in 2012, but the list was updated with new resource additions for 2014.
Jenn has 18 years experience writing for others, around 13 years experience in blogging, and over 10 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.
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