With a new year, we often want to start off on the right foot, and we don’t want to repeat last year’s mistakes. (Let’s make new ones instead, right? *smile*) So we like figuring out what didn’t work last year and what did.
My schedule has been absolutely insane for so long that I can’t even remember when it last wasn’t insane. My inbox is a disaster where things go missing on a regular basis, my Twitter mentions are a stream of people I mean to get back to (but too often don’t), and my to-do list grows larger as I fall more behind Every. Single. Day.
For as much as people tell me that I seem organized, I feel like I’m just barely not drowning. I joke about how my “method” is to flail randomly, but that’s not really a comfortable feeling for me. So I’d love to find a time management approach that helped me track everything.
The Facets of Our Life
As writers, we have to juggle many aspects of our life. We usually have day jobs taking up most of our time. The hours we have left are often split between writing, personal time (including those oh-so-fun dentist appointments), household time (cooking, cleaning, etc.), and family time. That’s a lot of juggling.
Add in the fact that our writing life is often just as complicated (or maybe more complicated) than our day job—with deadlines, drafting, revising/editing, social media and marketing, business accounting (and if we self-publish, add finding and dealing with cover designers, editors, etc. to that list)—and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Knowing Our Goals
I’ve written many times before about how we need to know our goals:
- Our choice about whether or not to blog depends on our goals for our website and platform.
- Our choice about what publishing path to take (traditional versus self-publishing versus hybrid) depends on our goals for our career growth.
- Our choice about priorities in our writing career depends on our goals for art versus professionalism.
“The process of putting our goals or priorities to paper is different, especially if we then translate those ideas into strategies. Writing down our goals can force us to think through an issue, to think deeper and see the ‘end game.’ …
Whether the plan actually works or not is somewhat irrelevant, as Robert Doucette commented on my last post:
“The benefits of a well thought out business plan are psychological as well as strategic. It helps to focus efforts.””
Writing Down Our Goals
Jane Litte of the Dear Author blog had a great post this past weekend about the steps of goal making and prioritizing:
- Set Goals
- Prioritize Goals
- Define Tasks (breaking down goals into smaller chunks)
- Prioritize Tasks
- Estimate Time (<— Many failures are caused by underestimating the time required.)
- Stick to the Plan
She shared a story about the effect of writing down our goals, and it was so interesting I had to look up more information. Per Forbes:
“There was a fascinating study conducted on the 1979 Harvard MBA program where graduate students were asked “have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The result, only 3% had written goals and plans, 13% had goals but they weren’t in writing and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again and the result was absolutely mind-blowing.
The 13% of the class who had goals, but did not write them down was earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined!“
Unfortunately, that study is an urban legend that’s been around for a long time (some references attribute the study to the Yale class of 1953). However, Dominican University conducted a study specifically to see whether or not the original “study’s” idea of the importance of writing down goals was legitimate, and their real study showed similar positive results as the legend. So myth or not, the results are legitimate.
It makes sense. After all…
If we’re not committed enough to write it down,
are we really committed enough to get it done?
Tracking Our Progress
Great! We have goals and we’ve written them down. Now what?
Thanks to Louise Behiel, I discovered Jamie Raintree’s Writing Progress Spreadsheet. If you’re comfortable with clicking around spreadsheets (such as from using one of my beat sheets), you should be able to figure out Jamie’s tool.
She gives us a way to track our word count by day, week, month, year, or project. If only her calendar on each tab offered NaNoWriMo-style color coding, I wouldn’t be able to contain my love. *grin*
But how do we track our non-drafting writing projects? How do we track our progress on editing, or sending out review requests, or our publishing production schedule?
The Holy Grail: All the Information at Our Fingertips
So far, my time and project management has been a mishmash of tools. I use OneNote for brainstorming and brain dumps, and I use various calendars and task applications (Outlook, Google Calendar, Trello, Wunderlist, etc.). But that mix-and-match approach means it’s easy for things to get lost or for my time to get double-booked.
I want an app with a connected website that contains a word count calendar like NaNoWriMo, but also allows us to set up goals and tasks. I want to set up revision and editing tasks like “layering in characterization and theme pass,” “getting rid of clichés pass,” etc. I want publishing tasks like “set up blog tour,” “update website for new release.” etc.
I should be able to put in time estimates for each task and chain them together as parent-and-child tasks with dependencies so I can estimate when a project would be complete. Those tasks should be easily copied and pasted into future projects with the dates adjusted by a simple change to the starting date. I want reminders of upcoming due dates and the ability to link to relevant information.
My calendar and to-do list should also reflect whether I’ve written today’s blog post, cleaned up my email inbox, or connected with people on social media. I want to get a “green success” day on the calendar for completing that day’s tasks, whether they were drafting-related or not, darn it! Oh, and integration for tracking income and expenses per project would be great too.
Is that so much to ask? *smile* (And please, if you know of any such organizational tool, let me know!) Until then, I’ll just have to muddle through, but maybe we can help each other by pointing out tools or lists we can use to get a head start on those tasks. *grin*
If you’ve developed goals, have you written them down? Do you have a strategy or plan for how to complete each goal? How do you track progress toward those goals? Do you have task lists to help mark progress? Do you have a Holy Grail of an organizational tool, or do you mix and match? Which tools do you use? Share names or links!Pin It