When left to my own devices, I’m a pretty disorganized person. That, it turns out, is a problem when it comes to writing and attempts at publishing. Because being disorganized leads to poor time management; poor time management leads to feeling overwhelmed; feeling overwhelmed leads to inaction (i.e.: the Dark Side). All the things I want/need to accomplish just float up and start circling my mind like a pack of hyenas going after a gazelle. My mind then tenses up, and I become incapable of doing anything.
So, not long ago, I started making To-Do lists. I mean, really making them, with deadlines and reminders. I make different lists for different goals (revisions, submissions, new projects, the blog/website, etc.). On any given day I might have four or five things to do, spread across three or four different lists. Sometimes my tasks have sub-tasks. I use a tool called Wunderlist, which has thus far been—you guessed it—wonderful. It’s easy to use, clean-looking and I can even change the background/skin on it. Here’s a sample list I made earlier, combining the goals of revising and submitting certain short stories:
It’s that simple. I write down what I need to do, then I set an achievable due date, and a reminder either early that day or sometime the day before. It isn’t set in stone, but it’s something.
And it helps. I’ve been more productive, calmer, felt more in control, relaxed and empowered, all of which has helped me get out of my own way and do what I need to do. Even when I don’t get to all the tasks I planned on for a certain day, having the lists still helps. Here’s why:
- Writing out the steps I need to take to reach my goals makes those goals feel concrete and doable.
- I can prioritize what I need to do, so that I don’t fool myself into thinking everything is urgent.
- I can give myself permission to devote my time/energy/focus fully to the task(s) due that day, because the next day has tasks of its own.
- I hold myself accountable, if by nothing else than the jarring tone of the reminder on my phone or the judgy pop-up on my computer screen.
- I feel a sense of accomplishment when I tick off a task.
I know that To-Do lists drive some people crazy, but they keep me sane. Do you make writing-related lists? If not, what helps you keep track of all the things you need to get done? Share your thoughts.