Online time tracking is seriously one of the best kept secrets. It’s by far the easiest way to accurately price your freelance rates as well as work towards being more productive.
I mean, how will you know how long a project takes you (and thus, find ways to improve) if you don’t know how long it takes?
Keeping a time journal has been a vital part of running any kind of online business. And it should be for you too!
How exactly? You can opt for one of two choices, both of which use Google Calendar:
- Manually track your time by using time slots and weekly reviews
- Use an app like Focuster to automatically sync your calendar and to-dos
Before I explain how to use a time journal for manual online time tracking, let’s first talk about what exactly a time journal is and the benefits it provides.
What is a time journal?
A time journal is a way for you to see how much time you spend on a particular task. It can also dictate how often you’re distracted so you can organize your day to better serve you.
Think of a time journal like a food journal!
It’s a place where you record everything you do, read, consume and think about. It reveals your strengths and weaknesses so you know what you can improve on in order to be more effective at reaching your goals.
After using an appointment calendar to help monitor daily tasks and activities, you start to really see where your time is being spent.
You can make it even easier by categorizing multiple types of projects coded with different colors.
Each color represents a different task or category. Light blue is for personal tasks and goals (like working out, taking a lunch break, etc).
For example, green is for writing tasks, blog posts, and guest posts. Yellow could be for VA work for clients and orange is for budgeting and bills that need to be paid.
You can also have different calendars that are synced to your team calendar (purple) for conference calls and collective projects. The idea of a time journal is to help you start working on a system of focus management versus time management.
Why Google Calendar?
I love using Google Calendar because it syncs with not only your smartphone but any other work devices, like a Chromebook or iPad. You can easily create tasks and reminders from emails received and it seamlessly syncs with scheduling tools like Calendly.
A great reason to chose Google Calendar is because it syncs with other calendars, you can share it with team members, clients, or your spouse.
Plus, it’s free! You can’t go wrong with it.
Before making any decisions about your workday schedule, check the Google Calendar app on your phone. Sometimes appointments are changed, or assignment deadlines are reschedule by others..
Can you use a paper planner instead?
Yes! Obviously, you don’t have to use Google Calendar, but having a visual time slot, that’s color-coded, for each thing is very helpful.
However, if you prefer, you can use a paper planner or a business calendar. A couple of paper calendars and planners you can use include:
- Brit + Co planners from Target
- Badass Blog Planner
- EPIC Blog Editorial Planner
- The Next 12 Months Planner
In order to use your time journal successfully with a paper planner, make sure it works effectively. Utilize it every day and take it with you every where so you can make changes and updates on the go.
And make it fun by using colored pencils or highlighters!
Doing all of this means will mean that you’re well on your way to successfully tracking where you spend your time — no matter what kind of time journal you use.
How to use a time journal for your online business
Using a time journal for your business means planning your work week in advance. Before next week begins, spend about 10-15 minutes organizing your calendar.
Block off time for upcoming interviews, appointments, client deadlines and any other social events you have planned.
Don’t forget to create time slots for lunch breaks, nap time and even family events if necessary. Self-care is a vital part of creating a good work-life balance, so don’t forget to make time for them.
Work in time to care for yourself first, then your business and your clients (in that order).
Keep in mind that every time slot is non-negotiable. It can be moved around, yes, but not only as if you’re rescheduling it. Don’t let yourself procrastinate or put off important to-dos.
That’s the key to a disciplined and productive workday!
It’s okay if you move your lunch break from 12:00 to 1:00, but the point is to force yourself to take one, no matter what time of day.
Review your calendar weekly
Now that you know how to organize your calendar and use it for effective time tracking, the next step is to review everything. At the end of each week, look over your calendar and make note of how each day ended up.
It’s one thing to create the perfectly scheduled day that you wish you could stick to. The idea is to see how things actually happened and how you can improve on making them fit more closely to your vision.
Why do you want to do this?
- Know which projects you’re spending the most or least time on
- Can properly bill your hours to clients for your work
- Spend more time focusing on YOUR business projects
- Allot more time for self-care or a social life
A weekly review of your time tracking could reveal some surprising insights. You might be surprised to find that you spend waaaay more time answering emails than you should.
Or maybe you’re not spending enough time on your own projects (since they tend to slip through the cracks).
Sometimes I even make notes on my calendar for things that made me more or less productive (didn’t get enough sleep, got a phone call, drank coffee, etc). Be honest with your time journal (no one’s going to see it except you) so you can make room for improvements.
Add up each task for accurate time tracking
Now this is the most important step in using Google Calendar as a time journal. At the end of the week, add up exactly how much time you spent on each colored task.
Add up each colored time slot so you can calculate how much time each task took to accomplish. By using this online time tracking system I can accurate see how long a specific assignments takes.
A simple trick to do this is to click on the colored blocks on the left of the calendar to “remove” a certain color or task from the calendar.
With this information you can see whether or not you should increase your per project rate, or if you need to work on completing the work faster (limiting distractions, working at different times of the day, etc.).
There will always be more work that can be done, and there will never be enough time. So come to grips with this fact, and manage your time accordingly!
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