What’s a Person to Do?

Computer calendars, paper agendas, whiteboards, bullet journals, organizers, and more. So many ways to get organized and so little time (yes, I see the irony in that). These days, more than ever, it seems as though everyone is rushing around, and yet it also seems as though people complain about getting very little done. Some people plan out every minute of their waking days, and some people go with the flow, the very thought of writing out a schedule a true anchor on their ankle. As a writer, planning out my day and week is a guide to what I’d like to accomplish (note: I wrote what I’d like to accomplish – my next blog will address writing goals and the individual; this blog is only about the different methods by which to get started). Internal accountability is a major part of writing, although I am thankful I also have an accountability partner to keep me on the straight and narrow. While everyone has a different way to organize their time for maximum efficiency, here are some tips about to-do list and daily organizers.

  1. To thine own self be true. If you work well with computers and hate killing trees, you should use your computer planners. Don’t fix what’s not broken! I’ve discovered that except for the big events, like doctor appointments and children’s events, I’m not good with planning my day or week or month with a computer. I need a pen and paper for itemizing what has to get done. But stick with what works well with you. If you’re going all in for a Google calendar or an app, make sure it’s downloaded to all your devices and synced. What’s more, make sure you update it regularly.
  2. Figure out what works for you. When my daughter started college, I grabbed a free agenda that her college was passing out. Talk about a changed person. I liked the format and the space it gave me to write down what needed to be done. Think about your needs as it suits your life. As a write-at-home mom, I need a wall calendar to keep my kids’ activities straight, but my agenda is for my personal writing goals and what I need to get done each day. My new planner is extra awesome because in the back, it also has space for monthly goals and notes to myself. In addition to writing, I can also include special cleaning tasks or special events ahead of time.
  3. Don’t be shy. If you’re just getting started with trying to organize your writing time (or knitting time or some other craft), then it’s okay to include some “gimmes” to cross off so you’ll feel better about what you’ve accomplished. If you need to write down “brush your teeth” in order to cross it off, that’s okay. Eventually, you won’t keep writing down extra stuff, and you’ll streamline it to what works best for you. But once again, be truthful. Don’t bite off more than you can chew so you won’t constantly disappoint yourself.
  4. One last tip. If your method is taking more time than why you’re organizing your time, it might be a sign you need a new organizational method. If you love making journals and that’s your craft and way to relax, that’s great. But if you’re a writer and you find you’re spending more time decorating and doodling in your planner, it might be time to put down the planner and write.

To-do lists are a way for me to see in black and white what I have to get done for the day. My agenda is a way for me to plan out what needs to be done in a realistic time frame. What are your favorite ways to make to-do lists and keep organized?








Writing Thursday: Spring Cleaning

stock-vector-spring-cleaning-icon-eps-vector-grouped-for-easy-editing-no-open-shapes-or-paths-169101809Spring cleaning. Today’s one of those beautiful days that scream spring. I’ve been at the library most of the day working on my work in progress, but it looked beautiful outside. Especially now that the pollen count is down. All around spring is blooming. Flowers are sprouting, the weather is warming up, and I’ve thought about cleaning. The operative word being thought. I asked my wonderful hubby to bring home boxes from work so I can box up old clothes for Goodwill and some books for the library sale. I’ve started going through stuff, weeding through piles of stuff and getting it ready to go out of the house, hoping for the day when I have a clean, uncluttered house. (For those of you who know me, I’ll wait a minute for you to stop laughing.) With spring all around me, I thought about ways writers unclutter their lives in order to become more productive. What can I learn about writing from spring cleaning?

Have a plan. Not just a plan for a book but a plan to increase my productivity. One of the best ways I can do this is to utilize a to-do list. When I don’t write out my goals for the week, I usually don’t get as much done. It’s not enough for me to think about my goals, I have to physically write out my list. When I visualize what I need to do, I attack my list. Today I actually made it to the part where I included blogging and social media. To-do lists often get a bad rap. They’re often seen as signs of a Type A personality when someone hunkers down over his or her work and thinks of nothing else but accomplishing everything on that list to the detriment of everything else in his or her life. In my case, not so much. It’s a way for me to finish my goals so I can dedicate time to my family. Lists don’t work for everyone, but I think they can do wonders for writers. Instead of berating themselves for all they didn’t get done, writers can congratulate themselves on what they did get done. Just like it helps with spring cleaning to have a list of what you want to get done in each room and cross off the deeds one by one, so too a plan can help a writer prioritize what needs to get done today and what can wait until tomorrow.

Get to work. I’m a great procrastinator. Not just good or okay. I excel at it. Instead of Writing Monday, this blog is getting written on Thursday. It’s been one of those weeks. Just as spring cleaning is great to visualize, it doesn’t happen until the sleeves are up, the clutter is put away, given away, or thrown away, and the room is clean. So too with writing. Until I sit down at the keyboard, nothing gets done. It’s great to have the book simmering in my head, but BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keys) works great for getting it onto the page. I have to write every day. For me, the process is multi-fold: I plot out the book, write the book, edit the book, send it to my critique partner, and then edit a lot more.

Double checking the drawers and under the bed. I’m a mom of a teenager, a tween, and twin preschoolers. The four of them all have their own personalities, but they all have one thing in common: all of them love to make messes. One time I found a bottle of opened maple syrup in my oldest son’s room. So I’ve learned I have to double check under the bed and in the drawers when I clean. I’ve learned to go back and start line editing my works. Writing a book doesn’t stop the first time I type The End. Even on my fourth pass of a draft, I’ve found paragraphs where I used the work dark three times in two lines. Today I corrected peeked to peaked. Checking work is crucial: spelling, grammar, word repetition and maintaining one character’s POV can go a long way into presenting a professional looking manuscript. It’s making sure the bottle of maple syrup is outside in the trash rather than under the bed.

Enlisting others to help. Sometimes getting the whole family to help is the best way to make sure the whole house gets cleaned. Encouragement from others is often the best way to make sure the manuscript gets done. Whether it’s a family member, a critique partner, a friend, a chapter member or someone else, a friendly word goes a long way in helping get through rejection or writer’s block or whatever’s in the writer’s path.

 Start another cleaning project. Once the house is clean (once again, no laughter from those who know me best), there’s always another project to tackle: organizing family photographs, planning a vacation, getting kids ready for back to school. Once the book is written, edited and re-edited, then it’s time to start all over. Writers don’t rest on their laurels. I’m always looking to my next book, getting excited over plotting and meeting new characters.

Are you a fan of to-do lists or do you wing it? Let me know.