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Six reasons to time record.

stopwatch 1

We lawyers are trained to record every minute spent on a file for billing purposes. Firms have meetings and charts about how many billable hours have been accrued, software companies produce competing time watching programmes and there is a whole industry of costs draftsmen who spend their lives translating time sheets into multi-sectioned costs schedules with appendices. I have never been to their offices but I imagine them as dark miserable caves devoid of the sound of joy. I can imagine that with some accuracy because I once worked for a firm where I was not allowed to boil a kettle during work hours because using a drinks vending machine took less billable time. I was not there very long at all.


I am not surprised then, that when I explain to fellow art quilters that I record my time, I get rolled eyes and sympathetic ‘poor dear’ looks.

I know they are thinking, ‘Come on. Art is about freedom, about spontaneity, about losing your self in the muse. Drop the office mentality’.

True, creativity is about going into the ‘zone’.

But for many its also about selling their work, about getting art to shows on time and not failing to get your book manuscript in as per contract.

And that where I recommend time recording.

It need not be a big effort.

I use a free stop watch app on my ipad and press start when I start and stop when I stop. How much easier can than be? Then I write down a line about what I did and for how long, rounding up or down to the nearest five minutes.

Six reasons to Time Record

1. For accurate sale prices

There are various theories on how to set a selling price for a work of art, but all of them involve you knowing how long it took to make so you can know the profitability of your selling price. The only way to know your time accurately is to record it.

2. For avoiding burnout.

I am more motivated by exhibiting opportunities than sales ,which  means I get very excited when I see a tempting Call for Entry and immediately start to think what I could make. However, I simply don’t have to time to do everything. I know roughly how much time I have outside of my day job, so knowing how long various types and sizes of quilts take me to make enables me to plan which opportunities to focus on. That way I avoid over commitment.

3. For planning purposes.

Most of my work is done in my studio but sometimes I need to plan to have  work ready that can be done in a small holiday flat,  my parent’s lounge, at a community hall during my art quilt group meetings or even occasionally on a plane. Certain tasks are better suited to these environments than others. If I know roughly how long each stage in a quilt takes and when that quilt need to be  done I can plan so I have the right kind of work for the right environment.

3. For motivation.

OK. This may be the geeky part. I want to be serious about my art but I have to be serious at weekend and evenings , traditional relaxation times. So having a measurable target as to what ‘serious means’ in term of monthly hours is essential to me actually getting as much work done as I can. Measuring the  hours in the studio and aiming at a target is  fun. Really it is. And even if thats sad, it still works!  especially if there is a self awarded reward for meeting target.

4. For validation

Some days I don’t feel like an artist. I feel like a lawyer kidding herself that she is not a still a small child playing with poster paint and making a fool of herself with pretentious ambitions. Setting the clock is a ritual that tells me I am doing something that is professional and serious. one simple click of the start button is enough now to rid myself of starting doubt.

5. For unblocking.

We all have days when the muse has gone to bed with a head cold and will not come out to play. We look at the studio table and think: Nah. Nothing doing today. But actually, if we can but get going, the muse gets intrigued takes a decongestant, and comes to see what she is missing out on. Setting a short timer and telling yourself to just move fabric around or splash paint about for say ten minutes at a time can be enough to break through the block and get the juices going.

6. For winding downSome days I actually want the muse to go away. I want to go to bed and go to sleep and she keeps dancing around thrusting ideas and excitements in my face. it is impossible for my mind to stop following her. Setting a timer and doing a relaxation or meditation practice with our without some yoga asana can be the difference to me between a nights sleep or not. The timer is the key because I can do it without constantly looking at the clock and worrying that it is only one minute gone. Or too many minutes gone.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alison Reeves #

    I have been giving time recording some thought recently – I have a tendency to forget to record time on work projects which causes me a problem when invoicing as I then tend to underestimate the time I spent because I am afraid of over-charging! Bearing in mind I used to work for a firm of accountants and had to account for my time in 15 minute intervals that is odd! I think that because I spent 10 years doing this I just didn’t want to play at timekeeping anymore!

    From a work perspective I have printed out a week on one page in column format to start blocking off time as I use it – but I like your idea of using iPad or iPhone app and then recording in a line. I can also see your reasoning for projects undertaken in personal time as well. I would like to spend less of my disposable time surfing the internet and recording my activities would help get this into perspective. My creative projects are purely for pleasure and I have no real deadlines (apart from any self imposed – for example if I am making something for someone as a birthday or Christmas gift), however it can still be useful to see if we have a good work/life balance and that the time we spend not working count for something other then surfing or watching TV!

    November 3, 2012
  2. I also use an iPhone / iPad app for recording the time spent on genealogical research that I will be billing. In the past I have never been brilliant at being absolute on the bill sent to each client, as the research for me was something I enjoyed and was not my professional job. From Jan there will be a change as I am leaving my professional job, to go out on my own and follow my dreams!

    November 4, 2012
  3. Brenda Gael Smith #

    This is a test using Safari and Disqus Helen.

    November 6, 2012
  4. I time record as well. I can only dedicate so much time to my creativeness in a working day (yes, I am still being creative) it helps to know where that time is going. A review at the end of the week (and month) to see what I can be doing better.

    November 7, 2012

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