They say it is never too late to start, so I picked May 1st as the beginning of my new year. In April I finally cleaned out my personal inbox. Cleared out all the junk, filed away the things I wanted to keep, and left all of the blog/newsletter e-mails to read. It took a week or so, but I finally made it through all of the Writing Practice and Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine e-mails from the past several months.
I started a new notebook in Evernote to save all of the important blog posts that I didn’t want to keep in e-mail, as they tend to get lost or forgotten in folders and sub-folders, never to be seen again. Evernote works great and whether I was reading the e-mails on my MacBook or on my iPad, Safari on both devices has an Evernote plugin that sends the page I want to whichever Evernote notebook I choose.
Since many of these e-mails were from 2014 as well as 2015, there were a number of year-end/beginning of the year suggestions that I had never done. The one I latched onto from Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine was drafting a personal Annual Plan. Since I did not do much writing and had not made a plan for 2014, I skipped this initial evaluation phase, jumping right into creating my plan for 2015.
Writing and blogging is not my full time job, so I began by estimating the number of hours I had available per week for creativity. Beginning May 1st left 35 weeks in the year. I estimated I had 8 hours a week for a total of 280 hours of creative time. This seemed like a huge number, but then I considered that 280 hours is really less than 2 months of working full time. Based on my own experience, I estimated that I could write 800 words and hour, so assuming 100% writing productivity I should be able to generate 224,000 words. This seemed unrealistic since some of the goals I planned to accomplish would include planning, outlining and generating ideas. I revised the estimate for actual writing to be 60% of the total time, thus setting my word count goal at 134,400 (or 3,840 per week which is far less than the 11,667 required to win NaNoWriMo!)
The next step was to list the projects I wanted to complete by year end along with time and word estimate, where applicable. This was a bit tricky to ensure my individual goals did not far exceed my time estimates. I came up with the following seven goals.
1. Edit 2014 NaNoWriMo novel (50 hours)
2. Complete 2nd Novel first draft (75,000 words/94 hours)
3. Plan next project (30 hours)
4. Develop business plan for Edited 2014 NaNoWriMo novel (20 hours)
5. Blogging – Write and Post 1 to 2 articles per week (40,000 words/35 hours)
6. 2015 NaNoWriMo novel (50,000 words/63 hours) – participation only in November
7. Track progress toward plan
Once I put these down in writing, it didn’t seem as daunting and having them banging around in my head.
Number 7 was going to be my nemesis. I’m a spreadsheet guy, so building a spreadsheet to track and analyze my time was right up my alley. The problem for me is that I can easily get sucked into messing around with a spreadsheet, making it better and better until I have wasted so much time I never get to the writing. I decided to search out a time tracking app to eliminate this time suck.
I’m a Mac user, so my first stop was the App Store. I had a couple of requirements – it had to be able to track multiple projects (at least one for each item above), it had to have an easy to use interface that would track the time for me, and it had to have a free option. I wasn’t opposed to paying for something that would work, but I prefer to give things a test run before committing any cash.
After two failed attempts with preview version apps, I found a completely free, cloud-based app that had a computer app, iPhone app and a similar browser interface. TrackingTime (iTunes link) was going to be my app of choice. The features are far more expansive than what I need for my writing, such as the ability to track multiple team members, but I can set up multiple projects, multiple tasks in each project and multiple to do items for each goal. I kept the set up simple by setting up a Writing Production Plan 2015 project and added the first six goals from above.
To track my time, I simply select the task I will be working on and click the button to start the timer. When I’m done I click to stop and it records my time. If it detects that I am being idle, it gives me a warning and asks if I would like to remove my idle time automatically.
One caveat is that you must set up an account before using. I was a bit skeptical of this, but they only ask for your e-mail address and a password to establish an account. Now my data is synced and I can access the same tasks from any of my devices to track my time anywhere. Although I do not do a lot of writing on my iPad or iPhone, for those brief times when an idea over takes me, I can easily track my time while jotting down these notes.
If you are in the market for time tracking software, I highly encourage you to give TrackingTime (homepage) a try. It’s easy to use and I expect this will be a valuable tool to keep my writing goals on target.
I made May 1st my goal to start and I have already logged over 2 1/2 hours in 2 days. I’m well on my way to complete my 2015 plan.