How busy are you? Really.

How busy are you? Really.

People often ask me how I fit it all in – the work, the toddler, the dog, the running, the poems, the veggie patch, the household crap, the plays and, of course, being a fantastic wife and looking beautiful and immaculate every second of the day! *

To be honest, I often wonder myself. So I thought I’d try out Yast for a week and keep track of what I do. I used to be a producer/project manager so pride myself on being organised, but is this vision of myself actually the reality?

What is Yast?

For those who don’t know it, Yast bills itself as the ‘world’s easiest time tracker’. If you’ve ever worked in advertising agencies, you’ll know what a pain in the buttocks doing timesheets is, and often they’re filled in way after the time spent, so end up being a complete work of fiction.

Yast is an online tool, available on PC, Mac and mobile (iPhone® and Android), that allows you to set up projects and then set a little timer off. As you move from one task to another it auto stops and starts. You can create reports and do all sorts of clever things.

How did I manage my time?

I used it for a week and discovered that:

  • I am rather busy.
  • I tend to jump from task to task.
  • Often what I think has taken me 30 mins has only taken me 10.
  • Often what I think has taken me 10 mins has actually taken me 30.
  • I’m more productive and write better copy early in the day.
  • Evenings are better for admin. jobs like invoicing.
  • I have tendency to ‘drop everything’ when I get an email rather than finishing the task I was working on.
  • I spend far too much time on social networks, given the actual financial return they’ve generated thus far.

All the above may sound pretty obvious stuff but to me it was a bit of an epiphany.

What project management lessons have I learned?

Here are a few things I learned last week that might help other copywriters manage their time better:

  • Make a ‘to do’ list every day – Perhaps using something like Teuxdeux. I found making this at the end of the working day was best. Then the next morning I looked at it and reprioritised tasks.
  • Do finance bits once a week – Try to save up all invoicing, book-keeping and so on for one session a week. It’s tempting to raise an invoice as soon as you finish the job, but, obviously, it’s sometimes quicker to do all your financial bits and bobs in one go.
  • Make money first – Aim for the first 3 things you do each day to be money-earning activities. I often find myself doing the easy stuff first thing, so I can tick off things on my ‘to do’ list. But then you get a dreadful sense of foreboding about the REAL work that’s looming. Get the meaty tasks done early and you’ll feel better.
  • Turn off your phone – Try to set aside one part of the day for phone calls. Obviously clients will ring at all times of the day, but you don’t need to always respond immediately, especially if you’re up to your armpits in writing. This break in concentration just uses up more time.
  • Cut down on emails – Only check your email once an hour – I’d love to say twice a day but I don’t think I could manage this!
  • Cut back on social media – Social media is important, but not that important. Yes it’s good to keep in the loop on Facebook, Twitter and the rest, but think about how much revenue these activities actually generate. If it’s zero then this is a hobby, not a business practice. Bear that in mind when planning your day.
  • Blog less – A blog once a week is awesome, twice a month is fine. Once a month is okay too. Unless you’re Seth Godin, no one is waiting, moist with anticipation, for your next utterance, so focus on ‘real work’ and blog when you have time.
  • Learn to say no – Friends and even random acquaintances will always ask for favours: “Will you build me a 28-page website? I’ve got $26; is that cool?” Remember, you are essentially giving away money by doing work free of charge. If you have the time, and really like them, then fine!
  • Keep the plates spinning – If you’re aware that you have a gap coming up later in the week, email your client and give them a gentle nudge to get that brief back more quickly or get that copy review in two days rather than one. I find my clients appreciate it. As long as I don’t badger them.
  • Have some down time – Really, when you work for yourself, you could work 24 hours a day and it wouldn’t be enough. Not working and ‘faffing’ is important too, to keep you semi-sane. So turn off the laptop and go for a walk, a coffee and a nice bun!

Although I loved Yast I don’t think I’ll continue to use it as, even though it’s easy to use, it feels like yet another thing on the ‘to do’ list. But I recommend you give it a pop for a week or two and see just how busy you really are.

* Okay maybe not the last one but I can dream.

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How busy are you? Really. was last modified: by
  • Kirsty

    Just signed up. will definately give it a go. interested myself. thanks!

    • Ah good, it’s def interesting especially if you’re working part time to see how many hours you’re really doing (all those little emails and extra calls ad up)! I should have got commission from YAST before I posted this!

  • Hey Kate. Nice post! All great tips. Once you get in the swing of it, Yast definitely doesn’t seem like just another thing to do. You just need to get into the habit. I keep it running all the time, and I switch to it habitually when I start a new task.

    Another good tip: Use at least 2 monitors (I use 3). Then you can keep Yast on one and your ‘work’ on the other. That’s not to say Yast will always be displayed. (You’ll find yourself putting Twitter & G+ there too, and maybe your email.) But it does mean you don’t have to switch away from the task at hand to start and stop timers. Your work stays in focus on your main monitor.

    BTW, I notice you have a captcha below… Are you not using Akismet to protect against spammers?

    • A true Yast nerd!

      How bout having the mobile app beside your desktop, starting and stopping from there?

      By the way. Planned the interface design for the next version of the mobile app yesterday. I honestly can´t wait til we got Yast as we want it to be. Well, back to the planning room…

      • Great to know you’re continually developing the tool!
        I’d be happy to be a future beta tester!
        Good luck with it all and thanks for commenting.


  • Hi Kate,

    Thank you for a great post about Yast.

    Although you loved it without continuing to use it, I think I´ll continue to show this post as an example of why people at least should try to use a time tracking tool.

    At the moment we are working on the interfacedesign of new functionality, and I´ll drop here (for the first time) that we´re planning an invoice module to handle your financials in a way that makes it feels like one task less to do. If we make it good enough, I hope you will come back to the software you love.


    CEO Yast

  • Great post Kate. I’ve just starting using a timer as well (although a different one). I have been tracking my billable time for a while (on my whiteboard) but I wanted to get a better handle on my non-billable time, and so far it’s going quite well.

    Just the fact that I can see a timer running is making me more conscious of the time I am on social media, or emailing, or doing the admin tasks that surround a new client (or choosing music or random surfing).

    At the moment I’m just tracking the time. After two months I’m going to see what I actually spend my time on and see if I can’t do some analysis to improve my productivity (and reduce my hours!). Wish me luck!!

    • Which timer are you using Belinda? Yes the timer thing makes you stop and think. What amazed me most was how little time some things take. Here’s me thinking oh I’ve been slaving for hours and I’d look and it was 12 minutes!
      Enjoyable tasks definitely take less time. I think doing my BAS took about a month. Horrible stuff!

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Bridie Jenner

    What a great idea Kate, I’ll definitely give this a go as I often wonder where time goes!

    I am guilty of dropping everything to answer emails too, it’s something I need to discipline myself on. Occasionally I close down Outlook so they don’t pop up but then I tend to worry that I’ll miss something urgent…

    • Hey Bridie
      Yes well I just saw this pop up in my hotmail and immediately stopped what I was doing and started writing a reply! It’s so hard to ignore email!
      Best wishes and good luck with Yast!


  • Anna Samkova

    Hi Kate,
    Thank you for a great post and thank you everyone for their comments as you all have inspired me to start using Yast! I think I am pretty good with my time management but after reading your feedback I’ve realised that I can always do better.
    You totally enchanted me.

    • Hi Anna

      Really glad you liked the article! I think my time management has improved since this experiment, I’m a little more single minded than before.
      Good luck with Yast and thanks for commenting.

      Best wishes,

  • Judith

    Thanks for your tips. I often wonder where the time went, so I created a Yast account and will be trying it out for at least a week as you suggested – maybe longer if I see improvement in my productivity.

    • Hi Judith, thanks for reading. Yes it was an illuminating if confronting experience for me. I saw a lot of ways to improve the way I work, but so far haven’t had time to implement them!