“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
One strategy for improving at something is to have data, information, to help develop an understanding of what you are doing. When it comes to writing there are numerous metrics that I use to look at what I’m doing. One of those is simply tracking the time that I spend on writing and related tasks. For that purpose I’ve started using an app Timeular and it’s eight-sided tracker.
The software makes Timeular work. Without it the tracker is nothing more than an oversized eight-sided die exiled from Dungeons & Dragons. Of course the tracker is more than that, but I’ll come back to it later.
The core functionality is with the software. It is a cross-platform application that tracks your work on different projects or categories of work (all depending on how you use it). Run it on the desktop or your phone.
Timeular is divided into spaces. Your personal space and spaces for teams or other collaborations. I’m not using that functionality right now, so I’m only going to talk about the personal space. This is where you create your various projects or categories. I use it to track categories of work. Right now those are:
Each of these can be assigned to a face on the tracker. It isn’t required, you can start tracking time on any of them within the app.
Since I’m using broad categories, I use tags to track specific projects. These are hashtags that Timeular remembers. Simply type the ‘#’ in the notes field and type the tag. Next time you can select it from the drop-down list after a few keystrokes. You can add other notes within the field, and ‘@’ people as well in a collaborative environment.
So you have the app set up with projects or categories. There’s a simple switch button to add those to a particular face on the tracker. This is the fun part.
To start tracking, simply put the tracker on the desk with face up that you’re working on.
Switching tasks? Turn the tracker to a new face.
It’s a simple and effective way to bring the task tracking and focus into a physical object. It makes starting or stopping a task a visible and physical action. If you stop tracking, you put the tracker back on its base, balanced on the pointy end.
The tracker communicates via bluetooth to your computer or phone. The app tracks the time spent on the task, then syncs that to the cloud servers so that the same data is available on whichever device you’re using.
The current generation tracker is rechargeable with a c-type USB connection (just like my phone) which makes it handy to rechange. It lasts several days (at least) for me.
Whether tracked with the tracker or directly in the apps, time is recorded and you can use the reporting features to analyze how much time you’re spending by project, category, or hashtag. For example, I’ll track novels with a #title hashtag as well as #novel within my Writing Fiction category. That lets me see time spent writing fiction, spent on writing novels, or spent on a specific novel.
I also record the word counts for each session in the notes, so I can always go back and see what I worked on in any particular writing session.
Recently, Timeular added a weekly target to the mix. You can set a target amount of time and Timeular will show how you’re doing meeting that goal. You can select which activities are included in meeting that goal.
I can track words written, pages edited, or projects published. Timeular adds time-tracking regardless of where I am. I can track writing time while I’m working on my Freewrite at a state park or a break at work. When I’m out I don’t take the tracker with me. Instead I use the app on my phone.
The reports and information collected allow me to see patterns in my work. I can see what times and days are my best. How much time I spend on different categories. Timeular also emails a weekly summary.
The tools in the reporting section allow you to view different time periods, filter, and explore what you’ve done in the past. It can be a surprise sometimes to see how much or how little time is actually spent on some tasks. Timeular helps me see what I’ve done so I can plan what to do in the future.