How to Stay Organized as a Writer

No matter what you do in life, staying organization makes it easier. But learning to stay organized isn’t as easy as making to-do lists or adding things to your calendar.

As you navigate through your own writing journey, you’ll inevitably find things that don’t do much more than eat away at your time. Sometimes, these things masquerade as helpful things, but they simply don’t mesh with your goals or personality.

These are both valid reasons for leaving otherwise helpful tidbits of information behind, but it’s always good to keep your mind open to new ways to stay on top of your goals.

Before organizing my life and workspaces, it was a struggle just to write a few words, let alone sufficiently outline my stories and goals. These six steps are what worked for me and continue to help me stay organized.

Step #1: Create an arsenal of tools, systems, and procedures.

Creating a list of writing tools and resources will help streamline your processes. If you’re hoping to write a publish a book, understanding the fundamentals of Amazon’s KDP service is crucial, but you might also want to learn IngramSpark if you plan on going wide with your distribution.

Knowing what you currently do will help you understand what projects and processes eat the most of your time, and by knowing that, you can determine what you need to simplify, condense, or stop doing altogether.

What does this look like for you, writer?

Start by taking note of things you do now. Do you send emails to your subscribers? Do you post to social media? Do you haphazardly stumble through the self-publishing process? These are all things that can be simplified through email marketing software, a social media management application, and a project management tool.

Step #2: Use checklists to stay organized.

Checklists are a godsend when it comes to my day. I know people want to get away from the checklist work life, but it only becomes a bad thing when we let our checklists overwhelm our life. I organize my day using checklists, so I know what I need to accomplish to have a successful day.

What does this look like for you, writer?

Use checklists to determine what you want to accomplish that day. Do you want o write 2.5k words? Determine how many writing sessions you need to achieve that goal and start writing. I try to take breaks between checkboxes, so make sure it isn’t all work, no pleasure—or rests! Ask yourself what you need to accomplish each day and you’ll achieve greater results.

Step #3: Outline your life by calendar blocking.

Outlining isn’t just for your stories—so nix that thinking, writer! Every writer needs an outline for their life in the form of goal setting. Goals are a necessary step to achieving success and the more we can outline, the more we’ll achieve.

What does this look like for you, writer?

Take one day a week—I chose Sunday—and calendar block your week. Start with this you need to do—like work, your commute, sleepy time, and family activities—and organize the rest of the time depending on what, when, and where you think you’ll be most productive.

Step #4: Optimize little bits of time throughout your day.

This is what really helps me get through my day. If you know you need fifteen minutes awake in bed before you can struggle out, use that time. Or if you know you get to work ten minutes early or you’re wasting time while commuting. Use these little pieces of time to work towards your goals.

What does this look like for you, writer?

Identify small tasks you can do during small chunks of time throughout your day. I typically make a list of things that aren’t time-sensitive or things that I need to eventually get done, but not necessarily right this moment. These might be things I have scheduled for two weeks out, but I know won’t take a long time, so if I can get them done quicker, then I do!

Step #5: Consolidate when it makes sense.

Using the same resources forever is great only until it isn’t. Don’t stay stuck in the past by continuing to use programs that refuse to step into the current century. I schedule time at least once per year to reassess my resources to ensure I’m staying on top of my game.

What does this look like for you, writer?

Make time once or twice per year and assess the resources you use. This could be your auto-editing software, formatting tools, or any other business management function, but it could also be the vendors and people you use for various aspects of your business.

Step #6: Master your email and office space.

Keeping an organized space is a necessity for many writers. How can you expect to organize your stories, if you can’t even organize your workspace?

Likewise, some might find it difficult to concentrate when they know there are a million things you haven’t yet gotten to or if you’re concerned there’s something important and time-sensitive you aren’t attending to. Anxiety can be crushing, and staying on top of the things that cause you anxiety is key. For me, one of those things is my email.

What does this look like for you, writer?

Staying on top of emails is a key priority for me. You may choose to dedicate 15 minutes every morning—I do this while drinking my first cup of coffee, but you could do this while exercising—to checking your email and organize by priority.

I use the Client-Vendor-Collaborator Method, where I organize my emails into one of these three categories. Then, I’m able to read through and flag them depending on my preset priorities. You may also consider an autoresponder depending on your email habits.

Taking adequate time now to stay organize yourself will help you remain laser-focused on your writing in the future. You don’t want to spend years dawdling away on your current work-in-progress, do you?

These processes and systems make my sometimes-hectic life more manageable, and I hope they’ll do the same for you. While you’ll likely have to tweaks these tips to best suit you and your needs, if I’ve learned anything over these past few years it’s that sharing what works and what doesn’t work only serves to help others.

What does staying organized mean for you, writer? How do you stay organized and keep your projects in order? Let us know in the comments below!

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