A Day in the Life: Word Counts, Statistics, and a Pie Chart!

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about authors who increased their productivity by tracking their writing time and pinpointing patterns in it (as in, what hours of the day are their most productive and whether they do better work at a cafe vs. their home office, etc.)


So I decided to track my hours during the month of July as a little experiment. Here’s what I discovered.




I categorized my time into the following fields:


Appearances: Travel time or speaking engagements. Preparation work for these appearances (such as packing) is also in this field.


Business: Business-related tasks that don’t fall under “writing” or “promotion,” such as phone calls with my agent, reviewing and signing contracts, filing taxes, going to the bank, shipping stuff, or organizing my office.


Home Life: Mostly consists of watching TV with my husband, socializing with friends and family, or tasks like laundry or grocery shopping.


Promotion: Includes reading and responding to emails, all social networking (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest…), blogging, interviews, designing and ordering swag, updating my web site, and recording guest vlogs.


Reading: Self-explanatory.


Writing: Includes everything from actual writing and drafting to revisions, editing, outlining, or researching.





Total days tracked: 28

Total hours tracked: 414 (almost 15 hours per day)


The Monthly Breakdown

Reading: 26.5 hours

Business: 34.25 hours

Writing: 77 hours

Appearances: 78 hours*

Promotion: 83 hours

Home life: 115.25 hours

* Includes 64 hours (or four full days) at Comic-Con and one day at the PNWA Conference.


The Daily Breakdown

For a more accurate “day-in-the-life” picture, I removed the five days of appearances. I also added 8 hours per day for sleeping, which is normal for me, and 1.5 hours for misc., such as eating and showering.


An Average Day in the Life

8 hours: Sleeping

4.8 hours: Home life

1.5 hours: Misc.

3.5 hours: Promotion

3.2 hours: Writing

1.4 hours: Business

1.1 hours: Reading

.5 hours: Preparing for appearances



ARGH, if only I didn’t have to sleep!!

Just kidding.

First of all, I have to point out that there really is no “average day” for me. There are writers, of course, who manage to keep very structured schedules and maybe could break their average day up into neat little blocks of time like this. And I envy those writers—I wish I could! But for me, it’s much more realistic that I’ll spend ten hours writing one day and eleven hours doing promotion tasks the next day and then I’ll have a day spent running errands and paying taxes before I sit down and read a whole book from start to finish. Very rarely would you see all eight of the above categories represented in a single day.


So maybe a more accurate title for this chart would be “An Average WEEK in the Life.”


That’s all beside the point, I just felt like I should mention it.


Now then!

By far the biggest surprise to come out of this experiment was:


I was at first shocked to realize that I spend more time promoting than I do writing. (And if you include appearances, I spend more than twice as much time promoting as I do writing!).

But it’s easy to see how it all adds up. I spend about 1.5 hours every morning checking all the social networking sites, and a few hours every week clearing out my email inbox. Then consider that I’ve already spent two hours writing THIS blog post, and add to it all the miscellanea (like designing and ordering swag) and… yeah. That’s a LOT of time spent on promotion! I generally enjoy this type of work and I like connecting with readers and other authors, but when looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why writers obsess over social networking vs. writing and how best to prioritize their time.

Going forward from this experiment, I’ll be making more of an effort to ensure I’m using that promotion time wisely, and I’ve already begun turning down requests that I know will use up more time than I’m willing to spend.

(Consider, also, that I don’t have a day job. If I did, as the majority of writers do, I suspect the ratio of writing to promo hours would look very, very different. Likewise, if I had children, I’m sure there would be a heavier emphasis on Home Life as well.)




Total words written during July: 44,700

Hours spent writing/drafting: 46.5**


Average word-per-hour rate: 961

Best hourly word rate: 1600

Worst hourly word rate: 250


** As opposed to writing time spent researching, outlining, brainstorming, etc.



I think that 961 words-per-hour is a pretty accurate average for me. As the extremes indicate, I can hit 1400-1600 words per hour when I’m very inspired, or struggle through 250-400 words per hour when I’m not. No big surprises here.

One thing I did find interesting (though again, not terrifically surprising) was that I seem to have consistently high word counts on days when I do short bursts of writing, as opposed to marathon writing days. So, two hours of writing in the morning, an hour in the afternoon, and an hour in the evening tends to produce more words than four hours lumped together.



Average words-per-hour rate by location:

Living room: 1123

Porch: 1044

Bed: 1006

Cafe: 836

Home office: 835



I’m not convinced that the by-location numbers mean anything, especially as I spent varying amounts of time in each location (I only went to the cafe twice during the month, whereas I wrote in the living room eight times). So it’s hard to say if a specific location really does aid in (or harm) my word output, or if that was just a bad writing day, or if I was so inspired I had to sit down on the couch right now and didn’t have time to drive all the way to the cafe, or whatever. I may try to duplicate this part of the experiment again during NaNoWriMo and see if I have any different results.


Thoughts, epiphanies, or questions? Has anyone else ever tried tracking their writing time or think you’ll give it a shot? I’d love to know what you discover!