Tool of the Week: Toggl

Every so often, I’m going to post about a writing tool I’ve been using, how I’ve been using it, and why it works for me. I always like to read from other writers what tools and techniques they use. Since I’m still learning and probably always will be, I’m often trying out new apps, tricks, and processes to figure out what works and what doesn’t (for example, I didn’t realize I was an outliner until a couple of years ago). So I’m excited to share the tools I like and the new tools I discover in the hopes that one day, it’ll help another writer along in his or her own quest for writerly success!

The tool I have used the most this week is Toggl.

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Toggl is a free productivity app that I discovered while I was doing a capstone project during my last semester of college. It’s basically just a glorified timer, so it’s not a direct writing tool, but I love to use it to keep track of the time I spend on different writing projects. It lets me put every task under a project, which can be color-coded, and at the end of the week I get a nifty little pie chart showing me how much time I spent on everything for that week. It also tells me how many hours total I’ve spent on any particular project.

Right now, I have three “projects” that I currently log time for. The first one is the one I use to track time spent on my current draft of HYBRID. The second is what I use to track the time I spend on posting to this website and doing other platform-related things. And the third encompasses anything else I do that’s writing related, but doesn’t fit into either of the other two categories.

I find this useful for two reasons. The first is that it will tell me exactly how much time I spent on a draft and on other aspects of writing. Every book I write is different, so I can’t always say exactly how long each draft will take, but as I get to know my process better, I’ll be able to look at the time I logged in Toggl and estimate how much time I’ll need to plan for working on a new draft. It also lets me see at a glance if I’m spending too much time on one thing (for example, spending more time on platform stuff than on writing the actual book) and adjust if I need to.

The second is that it keeps me accountable for spending my writing time wisely. I only have about an hour or two a day to write, so I have to make it count. If I get distracted by Twitter or an Internet rabbit hole, that Toggl tab with the ticking timer will remind me that I’m “on the clock” and shouldn’t be wasting that time with distractions.

Also: validation. I think I just like to rack up colorful space on my pie charts, but it also feels so good to look back on a week and see that I write a lot. And I need that!