Organization, or rather the extreme lack of it, is the bane of my existence. As a self-employed – and too broke to hire assistants – writer, I have to keep track of my different projects, deadlines, invoices, bills and other “I gotta do it(s)”. Organization has NEVER been my forte. I am tempted to say I thrive on chaos, but that only seems to expand the piles of papers and JUNK. sigh…
Yet to survive as a writer, or at least manage to hang on to the dream, I have to keep track of what I am doing and when it needs to be done. Sometimes it seems a bit overwhelming, but I’ve learned a few tricks.
To-do lists – very important. Not only does the list serve as a reminder of those things to be done, it also helps keep you on track. I’m sure you’ve heard the joke of the person who started out looking to address a letter, but they needed their glasses – while looking for their glasses they came across something else they meant to do, and so on until the day was over and they sat down exhausted at the table to find they never addressed or mailed the letter. I hate to admit this, but that really should be my biography, truly, that’s me.
I keep getting distracted by things I come across during my pursuit to accomplish just one thing. My to-do list helps me snap back to what I am supposed to be doing and helps me keep my focus. Besides, I leave plenty of room on the bottom of the list to write in all the things I came across to distract me so I will eventually get those done as well. And I don’t try to finish the list every day although it is nice when I’ve accomplished the bulk of it; I just copy the balance to the next day’s list.
Calendars can help keep you afloat. I carry one in my pocketbook and keep a full size one on my desk – these are regular old fashioned write on it yourself calendars. I also maintain a webmail calendar that I can set up to send me periodic email or text-to-phone reminders. Occasionally I do have to sit and coordinate each calendar to make sure I have the same info (ie: deadline dates and appointments) on each. Having a calendar at hand is a great way to make sure I am not double-booking myself or missing important dates. I also include social obligations and religious holidays since those can affect my availability. Some of my friends use the electronic calendar feature of their phones, that can work, but I prefer something I can easily look at and scribble on at will.
I keep a “project book” next to my desk. There are various methods you can use here – keep your lists individually, by date, by client (for multiple assignments) or just assign a sheet or two for each month and list an upcoming deadline appropriately. If I scheduled a blog visit, have a deadline, am hosting a blog stop, have an appointment or anything that will alter my time commitments, I list it here. This is in addition to my little note on my calendar(s). I check things off and even make a few notations about the job and or results so I can refer to it the next time I have a similar task.
When you are feeling overwhelmed with too many things to do, the stress builds and causes distractions and headaches. I work at home so my distractions may include family or neighbors, social phone calls or housework you just know has to be done. Caller ID and answering machines should be used to the fullest extent when you don’t need to be interrupted – I’ve gone so far as to turn off the ringer when I am really feeling frazzled.
As for interruptions from family, close a door or even hang a sign if there is no door saying “I am at work” and demand compliance. Plan a timed schedule for any must-do’s that you simply fee you can’t ignore and don’t devote more time than allowed. Finally, if you are really overwhelmed and stressed and reacting badly (as in you can’t seem to accomplish anything), take a break – yep, walk away from your desk and work and relax for at least fifteen minutes.
I hope you’ll find some of these helpful tips useful. For me, I am getting back to work – WHAT WAS I DOING when I thought to write this little ditty?
BTW, Just to let you know that I have since "modernized" my methods and NOW have an ALEXA on my desk to remind me of so many things... good gosh, she can really be annoying!