Needing Help from the Freelancers: I’m drowning in app options for task managing / productivity

I’m not exactly a luddite, but I’m one of those folks whom the weekly/ monthly planner book, pencil and highlighters have generally done a good enough job for decades. I hate having to sign in through services like Google (which has 30 things I don’t care about and maybe 1 or 2 I need, but I gotta sift through the bullshit and get bombarded by “updates” til I wanna scream… that crap crashed my last phone). I don’t jump between my phone and my multiple computers to get work done because my phone plan would kill my budget and I hate the idea of straining my eyes on a tiny screen that’s super sensitive to the touch.

Yeah, goodbye hard work because my finger slipped and in a panic I managed to change my language settings to Chinese and shut down life support on the space station. No thanks.

So, I’ve never done the Outlook Calendar thing, or Google calendar thing, or whatever.

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Yeah, Lumburgh, I know.

But things are changing big time. I’m having a hard time keeping track of what I’m doing. Granted, it’s been a long time since I’ve dipped my toes in the freelancing pool and I didn’t get very far the first time around (too much work, too much drama, and not a lick of support for my choices… now I’m making it different). I’ve been working on making a far more realistic writing schedule and trying to make a work-life balance more palatable so I don’t burn out in two weeks and get all depressed because things aren’t working out.

I love to write. I am rusty at it and truly want to write for a living, but–other than great ideas–I need convenience and accountability.

What I’m looking for is a desktop app (Windows 10 here) that lets me put in my schedule for several days (and the oddball day that’s gonna throw a monkey wrench in the works if I don’t keep focused), and I can input the time I spent on each thing, or check it off as done. And if I didn’t finish or work on it, have that stuff shift over to the next day (or something, I dunno). And help me keep track of what I’m really doing.

There seems to be a lot of apps that do similar things, but here’s the big one: I don’t like to be on the computer all day because I’ll end up browsing blog posts or watching YouTube vids instead of working (did that most of today, unfortunately, in between looking at pages of info about these damned apps). So, some of the apps I’d noticed had things like “oh, click on the timer when you start this project” and heaven forbid if you forget to shut it off (forgot which one that was–they all started to blur together after two days).

I want things that are easy to check off and keep accountability, but don’t require me to be working on the computer the whole time. There are gonna be chunks of time when I’m writing long-hand and working away from the computer for maximum concentration. I am trying to restrict the computer to research and making printable drafts before the publication part.

Again, all to increase actual productivity versus “feeling like I’m working, but I can’t recall a thing that happened and probably ended up doing jack crap.”

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Thanks, Peter.

But I also know I’m going to have to have more functions than just accounting for the above. I’ve messed up so much trying to do too much in the past (the biggest failure of my paper system) because I couldn’t have reminders I could pull up on writing contests or deadlines for submissions. I’ve never tried to just submit something to a magazine yet, just flexed my muscles with writing contests a few years ago. I know I’ll need to be able to schedule deadlines and such (and have space to write important memos so I don’t mix things up in case submission dates for different publications/ contests are the same).

And, of course, if there’s some way to keep track of accepted works, rejected works (and income), that would be awesome, too.

I’m just overwhelmed with the few things I’m seeing on the internet. Pages and pages of best-of lists with pretty pics but incredibly vague descriptions of what each product entails. I am hoping for something that’s free and doesn’t have so many features it was meant to run a Fortune 500 company rather than a homebody writer.

I just have no clue what’s out there–too much and not enough. I don’t use my phone for the internet and can have my computer and wi-fi damn near anywhere, so that’s what I’m sticking with, a desktop version.

Have any of you guys used any task managing software for your writing work that you’d recommend (or stay far far away from) on Windows 10? I had to stop looking for a few hours because I was getting confused or something looked good, but then I’d find out they were defunct and it was an old app list. I just worry about finding something that may be useful, and then “oops, here’s the bill for a crazy amount” or “sorry, we’re discontinuing the product now that you’re used to it”.

Any recommends would be great. I think I’ve figured out a schedule that will work for me most days, it’s just getting that accountability and the deadlines together in one place, and so many apps seem to be focused on team productivity. Do they work fine for individuals, too, or would something else work better? I just hate how snazzy the apps look (if not overly complicated) but there’s so little useful information on how it would work best for me.

Thanks in advance, my own personal Obi-Wan Kenobis. You’re pretty much my only hope at this point…

**ADDENDUM: 11/14/2020 @ 1 pm — I’ve narrowed down the programs to Toggl, Focus-To-Do, or Todoist.  That’s after about 12 hours of going blind looking back and forth at web pages. I’ll probably decide later today, I just gotta think harder about what my current needs and future needs could require regarding writing at home as a job and keeping myself productive and all. Whatever I get, I’m determined to go the free route because it’s gonna cut hard into my budget otherwise. Still doing research.

But if any of you have messed with these particular systems and like or hate ’em, lemme know. Nobody else I know uses stuff like this, so I can’t ask my amigos.

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