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Archive for June, 2007

Insights from time tracking

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

I’d always heard that time tracking is a good idea, but I’ve never really done it before (except when I was a consultant and even that was only for client work and quite approximate).

But in my new-found goal to be more professional, I decided to give it a try and record my time for anything work-related.

So now I understand why people suggest you do it. I was under the false impression that I worked really hard. That I spent all my time working. But now I know just how much I actually work, and I had better pick up my game. My whole persona is shattered – I’m not actually an overworked martyr after all.

But seriously, this really has been a good thing to do. It has given me some insights into how much I work, my patterns of work and how external things affect my work.

I learned that in the last month, I have few consistent patterns. In the past 4 weeks I’ve billed 70%, 60%, 35% and 70%. I’ve worked between 32 & 47 hours a week. Seemingly-little things affect my available time – in my first week I gave a lecture at university which, although it was an hour lecture, wiped out half my day. Scheduling client meetings efficiently is important – although I have found some good places to work between meetings, gaps are gaps.

I also learned that I skip around a lot (metaphorically – I tend to walk in the house). In a normal day I work on a couple of projects, some free work and some admin. I do like it that way – I find working on one thing very tiring. It is like how regular people work in bursts, but I fill my between-times with a different version of work.

Tracking my time has helped me be more aware of what I do and how I can best use my time. I am starting to think more strategically about my time, not to maximise money, but to re-gain the balance I’ve lost in the past few years. I am still going to do plenty of community work, but I’m not going to do free work unless it is for something that means a lot to me. Of course, that means I’ll still do lots for my communities, but I won’t say yes just because I’m flattered to be asked.

And if nothing else, time tracking lets me tell Lou that I’ve spent 24 hours on my book in the past month (5 hours today!).

Two great freelance resources

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Two of my favourite freelancing resources:

  • Freelance switch: fabulous writing, fabulous advice, awesomely funny. I read this before everyone else at the moment. I even ordered a T-shirt.
  • The Freelancer’s Toolset: 100 Web Apps for Everything You Will Possibly Need. This is where I start when I’m trying to figure out what tool will do the job, cheap. I don’t use all these tools, but do look through them.

Participate in a card sort?

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

I mentioned last week that there is a new card sorting tool available called OptimalSort.

I’ve set up a card sort and would love you to participate – give you a chance to play with the tool. The card sort is for the IA Summit and the content is conference presentations. I used this content to test other software tools last year.

If you can spare some time (15 minutes or so), please go here and do the card sort:

The fine print:

I recently did some work on this tool but don’t have an ongoing interest in it (except that I’m friends with the people who do)
  • I may use example outputs in my book
  • I will use the activity outputs as input to the IA Summit website, which I manage
  • I will not disclose your name, email address or other identifying details in the book
  • I won’t use your personal details for anything other than this activity
  • The card sort will be open until 15 July 2007
  • I tested other tools last year using this same content set and a call for volunteers
  • A new card sorting tool

    Thursday, June 14th, 2007

    My friends at Optimal Usability have released their brand-spanking new card sorting tool into beta release (it’s free until August).

    Their tool, called OptimalSort, caters for open and closed card sorts. The sorting interface is a spatial drag-and-drop.

    The thing I like best (and I will fully disclose that I was involved in this, so I should like it) is the analysis options. No stinkin dendrograms here, but lists of category names, detailed participant results and lots of ways to explore the data.

    Go try OptimalSort.

    Card sort analysis spreadsheet

    Thursday, June 7th, 2007

    I have just uploaded something I’ve been working on for many years: the spreadsheet I use to analyse card sort data. My spreadsheet is great for analysing open sorts – it manages participant results, helps you explore the data and does some basic statistical analysis.

    It’s free. Check it out!