Using a Writing Spreadsheet to Track Productivity

As I promised a long time ago, here is the writing spreadsheet I use as a freelancer. Thank you for reminding me, Felicia. 🙂

It’s been through a few changes over the years, but this is the most current. Because parts of the form are a bit advanced, I’ll do my best to break it down.

I made a basic video showing what the spreadsheet can do and how it can help you.

It’s actually fairly easy to use. And once you get the hang of it, it’s nothing to monitor your productivity.

Currently, the spreadsheet is available as the following files:

  • ODS (Libre Office)
  • XLS (Excel 1997 through 2003)
  • XLSX (Excel 2003 and beyond)

All three of these are saved in the ZIP file below.

Clicking this button will immediately download the ZIP file of the spreadsheet or open your save screen, depending on what computer you’re using and how it’s set up.

Using the Spreadsheet

OK, I’ll do my best to show you how to use this form and what it can do for you. I will make a YouTube video on this spreadsheet in the future and post it to this page for convenience.

But for now…

Tabs of the Spreadsheet

Spreadsheet Tabs

When opening the spreadsheet, you’ll see three tabs at the bottom. They are:

  • Breakdown
    This will show you how much you’ve made each individual week, the number of words types, estimated income for the year, and your overall efficiency based on an 8-hour work day.
  • Weekly
    The Weekly tab shows you progress for individual days and how well you performed throughout any given week. This also shows pay, words, efficiency, and totals.
  • Timing
    In the Timing tab, you’ll do most of your recording. Here is when you start and stop writing time, record how much you make per article or task, any personal blogging you do and any other random, non-paid projects.

The Writing tab also shows a few different data points that I thought were interesting to keep track of as a freelancer.

For instance, it has a word goal for the day, how much you would make per hour if working a traditional 8-hour job, and your estimated income for the year which is updated anytime you enter in a dollar amount.

Most of your time is going to be spent in the Timing tab. Every day, you’ll have to make adjustments in “Weekly,” but it only takes less than a minute.

How to Use the Writing Spreadsheet

Perhaps the easiest way to show you how to use the above spreadsheet is to walk you through a typical day.

First thing, click on the “Timing” tab. You may already be looking at it, which is fine.
Timing Tab

In the first column under Paid for Writing and HR, input your starting hour. In this example, I’ll say we started at 8 am.
Starting Hour

Now, enter your starting minutes. So if we start at 8:02 am, you would enter a “2.”
Starting Minute

OK, so let’s say we are working on a 500 word for a 4-star client in Textbroker. We managed to go to 498 words and were paid $6.97 for the piece.

Input the number of words you typed for the client.
Number Of Words

Enter the amount of pay for the article. In this example, it’s $6.97.
Amount Of Pay

Now enter your stop HR and Min just as you did when starting. So if we stopped at 8:20, you would put an “8” under HR and “20” under Min.
Stop Time

As you can see, the rest of the form becomes filled out for tracking data.
Data Propagation

NOTE: If you want to set a word goal for the day, you can enter a new number in the space provided.
Word Goals

Continue filling out the form throughout the day as you did in the first example. For this sample, I am going to say we only did a handful of Textbroker articles.
Completing 4 Jobs

NOTE: When recording time, I start the moment I start looking for a job on Textbroker and stop the moment I submit the article to the client.

Also, be aware of the transition from 12 to 1 in terms of time. You’ll need to use 24-hr time for that instance. So, if you write from 12:55 pm to 1:30 pm, you would enter 13 and 30 in the stop time.

That’s all there is to it, really. However, do not clear the Timing screen until after you edit the Weekly tab. Otherwise, you’ll lose all the data and the spreadsheet will not work right.

Editing the Weekly Tab

Ok, let’s say it’s the next day and we’re getting ready to write again.

Go to the Weekly tab.
Weekly Tab

Find yesterday’s date in the left column. For this tutorial, I’m going to keep it easy and say it was January 1, 2020.
Yesterday

Each column is pulling information directly from the Timing tab. This is why you don’t want to clear the Timing tab until after you edit your Weekly information.

Manually type in the numbers shown in each field. This includes Words, Mins, and Pay. Do not edit any data that is in the blue-colored areas.
Type In Numbers

In this example, I would enter:

  • 2093 then hit tab
  • 110 then hit tab
  • 29.29 then hit tab
  • 0 then hit tab for the “Blog Writing” and “Projects” fields.

Hitting tab advances your cursor across the fields. Well, at least it does in Libre office. I’m pretty sure it works the same way in Excel unless you changed key bindings.

Once you do this, the numbers are locked and recorded for the annual breakdown. Any changes you make to the Timing tab will no longer show in the day you edited. In this case, it should be yesterday.

It should take you less than 30 seconds to type in yesterday’s numbers.

Clearing Yesterday’s Numbers

Now, let’s clear the Timing tab and get the writing spreadsheet ready for a new day.

Go to the Timing tab.

Select all the areas you entered numbers.
Select Yesterday Numbers

Right-click the selection and click, “Clear Contents.”
Clear Contents

Now, this is how you remove data using Libre Office on a PC. It might be different depending on the platform and computer you use.

The bottom line is you need to delete the numbers you entered yesterday whether it’s hitting the backspace, delete key on the keyboard or another method.

And that’s it. Everything else is automated.

Things to Be Aware Of

This spreadsheet is set up with Textbroker in mind. Which means the start of the week is on a Friday. This is because Textbroker pays out anything that is claimed on Thursday night.

What about working on weekends?

The grey areas in the Weekly tab are weekends.
Weekends

I didn’t connect these days because I am a firm believer in taking time off. After all, you don’t want to burn out as a writer. But there are times when I did a few articles on a Saturday or Sunday.

In that case, I would still use the Timing tab and enter the numbers into the weekend based on what the Weekly tab shows for the following days.

For example, Let’s say I wrote an article on Saturday. I would type in the numbers for the following Monday.
Type From Monday

But since it’s not Tuesday, I would leave Monday’s data in the Weekly tab alone. Just use it as a way to see what you did for Saturday from the Timing tab.

I only do this so I don’t have to flip back and forth between the Weekly and Timing tabs when recording jobs I do during the weekend.

Editing the Colored Areas in the Writing Spreadsheet

With the exception of weekends, you don’t want to edit the data in colored sections. These areas are dependant on data throughout the spreadsheet, and you can inadvertently break the form.

However, you can set new goals for the amount of time you want to write.

For example, the Weekly and Timing tabs both have “Goal hrs.” By default, I set these to 8 so I could compare what I do versus a traditional workday.

You can change these to whatever you like, though.

What’s the “Um…What are you doing?” at the top of the spreadsheet?

Spreadsheet Messages

So, I was looking for a way to keep myself motivated when writing. I made the spreadsheet post different sayings depending on how much I worked for the day. The higher the percentage is for efficiency, the more exciting the message.

You can delete these if you want. They were just something fun I threw in when setting this up for myself.

Customize the Writing Spreadsheet

This is just a template to help you get started. There are a lot of ways you can customize it to show specific data. But, this is what I used when starting as a freelance writer back in 2012.

And it’s been helpful to keep me motivated for a very long time. In fact, I still use it today. Mine is just far more detailed with many more data points. 🙂

If you like the form, let me know. I’d love to hear how you’ve customized it to fit your purposes.

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