How to Stay On Top Of All Your Writing Projects
Writing has a lot of challenges that are unique to it, but one challenge every writer is familiar with is the struggle to keep up with all the projects on your plate. This can happen for many reasons; you may have said “yes” to too many things, you may not have heard back from someone who’s input you needed to move forward, you may have had a surprise project dumped on you last minute, personal drama may have impacted your ability to work, the list goes on.
As a freelance writer I’m familiar with all of these scenarios, and figured I’d share some of the ways I’ve learned to stay on top of my projects. As you read through my recommendations remember that these are actions are what work best for me, but they may not work for you. Be open to changing/ignoring them as needed to fit with your personality and lifestyle. On that note, let’s begin!
1. Write all meetings, important dates, and deadlines in your calendar(s) as soon as you learn of them. With information at our fingertips and communication as easy as the press of a button, it’s easy to get sidetracked by a phone call, email, another work project, breaking news, etc. Get sidetracked too often, and you’ll forget about your original project, then scramble to reach the deadline you didn't realize was at your doorstep. If you write down all those important dates and events in your calendar(s) as soon as you learn of them, you won’t have to worry (as much) about forgetting them.
2. Keep digital and physical calendars. This seems redundant (why would you need 2 calendars?), but I promise there’s a purpose! Repetition is key to remembering. The more you hear or see something, the more likely you are to remember it. If you have to write down the important info twice, you’ll keep it in your mind more, and because it’s in your calendar you’ll see it more. As a bonus, you’ll have this reminder whether you’re working online or offline.
3. Separate important tasks from urgent tasks - then tackle urgent ones first. When you have a lot of things on your plate, all of them can seem like tasks that have to be completed NOW. But if you take a moment to stop, breathe, and think about it, you’ll realize you don’t have to do them all now. What you have to do immediately are the urgent, can’t be put off any longer ones. So when you have a huge batch of projects coming up use details like deadlines and time needed to accomplish the tasks to determine which ones should actually be your priority.
4. Time batch projects. If you have several projects that require you to use different skill sets (research, edit, write, etc.) Try to work on all of the tasks that require the same skill set at once. Set one day aside to do all the researching, another for all the editing, and several days for the writing. Grouping tasks together this way saves time because you don’t have to constantly shift gears to do something else. You can just keep the momentum going to power through similar tasks at once.
5. Use your body clock to your advantage. Now this requires a bit of self-awareness, so it may not be as easy to implement as other suggestions on this list. But everyone has a “time” when they’re alert, energized, and can power through tasks. Figure out what yours is, and make sure you do the hardest task on your list at that time. If you work around your body clock you’ll be able to accomplish more because you’re not forcing yourself to think when your brain is in sleep mode.
6. Keep a list of current/upcoming projects away from your workspace. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you use a bulletin board, whiteboard, or chalkboard - you just need to have an object away from your workspace with this info. Why? When you work as a writer, you tend to collect papers all around. Even if you do your best to keep things digital, inevitably you end up with books, brochures, printed presentation slides, etc. that clutter your workspace. That can get overwhelming very quickly! If you keep a list of projects away from your desk you’ll be able to use it as a guide when you lose track of what you were doing.
7. Become the secretary of your collaborative group. If you work with others you know you can’t get everyone involved to keep track of all the emails/phone calls/meetings you’ve had, or force them to respond to your questions in a timely manner. What you can do is summarize the latest developments and send them out to your collaborators so everyone is on the same page. You can also exercise your persistence and email/call unresponsive people repeatedly until you get the information you need. Annoying? Yes. Fun? No. Effective? Definitely. Do what you need to do to get the job done.
8. Take care of yourself. When you’re juggling a lot of projects it’s easy to let your self-care slide, after all, finishing those projects is more important than eating or sleeping right? Wrong. Basic needs like food, water, exercise, hygiene, and sleep can make the difference between getting that “right” idea to finish the project, and wanting to scream because you can’t think clearly enough to get it done. Cut down on social media or socializing, shorten your exercise routine to a quick walk when you need a break, but don’t give up on your health. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to function enough to finish the project well.
Hope these suggestions help you manage all your writing projects more easily! Do you have any insights or experiences to share? Write about it in the comments so we can all learn from each other!
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Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week with another article!