This is the second part in the series. The first part is on evaluating your time.
Everyone talks about priorities all the time, about getting ducks in a row, but it’s usually about “big stuff” – faith, family, self, friends, work, etc. You can organize all that big stuff any way you want, but when you’re writing, you need to prioritize the little stuff too.
I talked in the last part about prioritizing research over writing, since it tends to be the biggest time waster. This time, I’m talking about organizing your writing projects. (Yes, projects. You will be inspired – trust me and the muse.)
As a writer, you will usually have more than one project going
on. As you grow in success, you will hopefully be taking on several clients at once, or at least one client with many projects at once. I am actually almost over booked on my clients right now, and so priorities are very important to me. They also play a major part in the next step, which is writing it down – but one step at a time.
Prioritizing can seem incredibly daunting, but is really quite simple once you get to it. Remember, you already know how much time you have and how much time you need for each project – so now it’s a matter of what goes first.
Priority #1: Deadlines. If you have any projects with a due date on them, they must go first on your list, whether that deadline is a day or a year away. A deadline means that you have committed to someone that you will have something done by that date at the latest. It is one of the greatest harms to your credibility as a writer to miss a deadline.
Priority #2: Time-sensitive projects. If you’re writing an article about the Winter Olympics, then you should probably post it during the Winter Olympics. The more timely your work related to current events, the more traffic it’s going to get, the more it’s going to get recognized. If you’re like me, and write a news column, time-sensitive projects are very important to have on top of the list – and sometimes will take their place above a deadlined project. I have been known to occasionally push a deadline a day back because of time-sensitive projects.
Priority #3: Money makers. Whatever makes you the most money should be your next focus. While #1 and #2 build your credibility and traffic, #3 lets you get paid by clients or places that value your work the most – the less someone pays you, the less you attention you should pay them, unless there’s other prestige or credibility that you gain by that experience.
Priority #4: Leftovers. Random extra content you decide to do, evergreen content, volunteer work – these things can wait till last. You may think you’ll never get to these pieces, but if you manage your time, prioritize, and plan it out – you will.
One final thing to understand about priorities – sometimes priority #1 isn’t priority #1. That certainly doesn’t make sense, but there will be times where you will simply want to get a #4 quickly done as a lead in to a #2, and the #2 is more important than the #1 that has a few days left. As a writer, you will come to know best, after practice, what’s most important to get done first each day, and what can wait till later in the day or week. First, get in the habit of prioritizing your work.
Here’s another simple quick tip: if you can’t remember what goes first, buy some cheap index cards. Write on each card a single project, and your estimated time you’ll need to research and write it, plus any additional notes you want to include. Then stack these cards in the priority order you’ve set out. You’ll always have a quick list of what’s most important, and when you’re done with a project, you can set it aside in a “done” pile and see how much progress you’ve made!