I am not a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person. Partly that’s just because I don’t enjoy not knowing how I’m spending my time, but it’s also because if I don’t stay organized, I can’t remember anything I am supposed to do. Long before I sold my first novel and started having to deal with things like marketing and social media, I kept a writing calendar for my work. The difference now is that the calendar is a lot fuller. And it’s taken on a life of its own, almost like a pet.
Everyone prefers different types of organization systems. (And some use none… You people are a mystery to me, but more power to you.) However, I’m often asked how I stay organized, so I thought sharing my writing calendar might be helpful to some.
Yes, I prefer pen and pencil on a paper calendar. I know there are tons of calendar apps and I have one on my Mac and I do use Google’s calendar for certain clients who need shared calendars. However, the paper calendar sits on my desk where it is always visible. The pens are next to it, ready to scribble something down as soon as I think of it. I don’t have to remember to open it, fiddle with settings to assign colors or times, or worry about a power outage leaving me without my calendar. (During Hurricane Matthew, I was without power for four days and this paper calendar was a lifesaver.) If you prefer computer calendars, by all means use one. The point isn’t to do what I do, but to do what works for you. (Even if that is nothing at all.)
This is a modified version of the real thing. Since I knew I’d be posting this, during this week I didn’t include many of the things I normally do (and I tried to keep it much neater than it usually is). I left out all the confidential information, used a lot of acronyms and abbreviations that will make no sense to you, and left off some things that I can’t reveal publicly. (And I left off all of the personal tasks that are usually included and written in pencil. I just wanted to show you the writing work, not the haircuts, doctor’s appointments, vet visits, etc.) But at least you can get the gist of my system.
The general color scheme here is:
- Orange: Freelance work and tasks like billing, meetings, calls, etc. related to that job.
- Light blue: My work at iSlaytheDragon.
- Regular blue: Administration tasks like boxing up books, mailing prizes, filing, ordering swag, taxes, etc.
- Hot pink: Fiction projects, including research, outlines, and notes. (I also add word counts at the end of the day.)
- Green: Work on my website, blog posts, and giveaways. Also includes things like tracking statistics and performance metrics.
- Purple: Social media, marketing, and interacting with readers. This also includes creating promo graphics, doing Twitter/Facebook parties, visits, blog posts for other websites, book blitzes, etc.
Sometimes there’s overlap between categories so the color scheme isn’t perfect, but it gives me a general idea of what I have to do and where I’ve spent my time. The great beauty to this system is that it’s very easy for me to look back over a year and see how I spent my time. I make sure to periodically review my calendar so I can see if I’ve been slacking off in any areas, or if there are areas that can be eliminated or adjusted for better efficiency. The colors make that sort of tracking super easy.
Not only does keeping a writing calendar keep me organized generally, it prods me to do the things I don’t like to do. I don’t enjoy marketing. I’d rather be writing. But it’s a necessary part of the job, so seeing it on the calendar prods me to do it and not ignore it. Similarly, the calendar also inspires me. When I don’t feel like writing, or I feel like I’m doing a crap job of it, I can look back over several weeks and see all that I’ve accomplished. It reminds me to keep going, to fill in those word counts! And if too many weeks go by without those numbers moving much, I know I need to step back from the other stuff and write.
I’m not going to say that everyone needs to use a system like this. For me, though, it’s a lifesaver and a productivity booster. It eliminates the flailing around without purpose that I would be doing if I didn’t have it. I never wonder if I’ve done what I needed to do that day. I’m able to keep track of literally hundreds of things at a glance. It makes having two full time jobs not only possible, but manageable. (Once you get over the fact that there is no such thing as a weekend anymore, that is.)
(Photo courtesy of kconnors)