While writing down ideas about what to write, I noticed that I forgot to start the timer for this project. After starting the timer and switching to my editor again, I left all other ideas behind and started writing about how I track my time.
Working as a freelancer, I don't really have fixed times where I work. I either work on a per hour basis or I calculate beforehand how long something will take and will charge a fixed price based on this. In both cases I need to keep track of the time I work for a specific project. I tried various attempts over the years - from writing the time spent down on a notebook, to having a data sheet with all the time info inserted there to using time-tracking tools. There are many tools to track time - in my case I stuck to Toggl as it offers everything I need.
I track not only all my billable time I spend on working for clients, but also all time spend on side projects, open-source work, research and writing. One of my projects is called Learning, where I track time when I read a technical article, try out new web platform features or when I study code examples. A big part of our job working on the web is learning and therefore we should reserve time to learn in our working hours and not in our leisure time. You wouldn't expect from a doctor to learn about new operation methods in their off time either.
Watching training courses can be as much fun as watching your favorite series, but the former is related to work and the other is leisure. I like working on the web, but I also like going outside and meeting friends. Using the time tracker I differentiate between work time and leisure time by tracking everything related to my job.
Sometimes I have days where there is no urgent work to be done. I could do it today or postpone it until the next day. At these days it could happen that I spend eight hours in my office, but only track four hours because I spend a lot of time surfing around and being distracted by everything. While being lazy can feel good sometimes, it is pretty unhealthy for me to be lazy in my office. After such days, I always asked myself why I spent that much time in the office, when I could instead spent half the day in the park without achieving less work. This isn't really happening anymore nowadays because when I find out that I am not working and still sitting in my office I will close my laptop and leave the room to do other things. I can always go back to the office to work again, but it makes no sense for me to waste leisure time in my office.
At the end of the week I often have a look at the weekly report to review what I did the whole week. I am often surprised how much time I really spend on my computer, as there are weeks where I have the feeling I didn't achieve a lot. Looking back I often discover that there are so many little things I learned, so many words written and so many tasks completed. Would I only track my billable time it would look like I only work 20-30 hours a week while in reality I spend 40-50 hours a week in my office working, learning and doing web-related tasks.
For the curious, I also tracked the time for this article. From the first email to the finished article I spent 2 hours and 48 minutes on it. This includes communication, finding ideas, the first draft, writing it, revision rounds and the final upload.
I worked eight hours, 10 Minutes and 31 seconds in my office today. Time to close the editor now, stop the timer and enjoy leisure time.