Writer Organization, Part Three: Plan it Out

This is the third part in a series.

So you’ve come this far – you’ve evaluated your time, you’ve prioritized your projects. Now, you need to plan it out – make a flexible game plan that makes sure you stay on top of what you want, and need, to do.

For me, this comes in the form of using a planner. What you see below, messy and charming as it is, is a “School Year” Weekly/Monthly Planner from BlueSky. This is from last week.

Planning out my Writing Projects

Planning out my Writing Projects

This is my personal planner, so this of course makes plenty of sense to me, but nothing to you. Let me dissect it for you:

  • X: Gamer Love is a special editorial project on Examiner; for the week, we were encouraged to write pieces about video gamer love, love in video games, etc and put it under the category Gamer Love. “X” is my short hand for Examiner. I put these notes usually at the bottom of each day they are featured, as they are low priority (#4 category) and act as a reminder.
  • Alganon Review is the review of the game Alganon. This is one of my big projects, for MMORPG.com – it takes me a month to complete. Its deadline was on Tuesday, and so it’s nice and big on that day.
  • 11am Tues Tribe is my Tuesday syndication tribe with a wonderful group of writers. *waves* If  I never wrote these meetings down, I would forget.
  • Column is a reminder that my deadline for my weekly column (published on Friday) is on Wednesday. Again, big and up top. (The 770×200 note on Wednesday is just me using my calendar as a scribble pad, and refers to the size of the header image on this site.)
  • RAOK on Friday through Sunday was a reminder of another special project/event time, for Random Acts of Kindness. This was something I picked up on another calendar, not the editorial calendar for Examiner, so I stuck it in another corner.
  • Lords Online refers to a name of a game I am working on another special project for. Unlike other items on this list, it is not highlighted; I didn’t get around to it. It is, however, lower on my priority list and has been moved to this week instead.
  • POS Guide and HOR Guide are references to two guides I had to do for another client. Their deadline is actually today (the 15th), so I marked them a day early. The previous week actually reminded me to get the POS guide done, and as I got it done  then, I highlighted it earlier.
  • There is no “news” section on here because I do the news every day, usually as my first priority, so it’s habit.

So now that I’ve translated that a little for you, let me make two comments on my system.

First of all, I only use the weekly planners, and never the monthly. Although I should use the monthly, I find I page between each week often enough (aka, daily) that I don’t need the monthly to see the bigger picture. The monthly is also small and unwieldy for all the information I can put in. However, there is nothing adverse to using a larger desk calendar or monthly calendar (I used a large desk calendar in college much the same way). I have only a small amount of space on my desk, and this takes up front and center perfectly.

Second, there is something I would recommend to those of you taking my advice that you do not see on my calendar: write down your writing schedule. Remember how we talked about how much time you had each day? This is a great place to find a spot to jot down your available time, and even plan out when you’re going to write. The reason you don’t see it on my calendar is because I don’t have a writing schedule: I pretty much work from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, and just take breaks as I need or want them. That isn’t a realistic schedule for most writers, however, and that is why I offered you the time evaluation advice up front.

Basically, I use my calendar to do the following:

  1. Write down deadlined projects, on the day they are due, in big letters and near the top.
  2. Assign deadlines to important projects without them, and put them in based on when I think I can get them done.
  3. For projects I have long deadlines on, I assign a secondary deadline approximately halfway from the actual deadline. This acts as a reminder, and encourages me to get projects done early. It works about 75% of the time, which means 3 out of 4 of my deadlined projects get done early.
  4. Write down meetings near the middle of the page in big letters, time first. The moment I see a time mentioned, I know I have a meeting.
  5. Scribble “notes of interest” – editorial calendars, holidays, special time-relevant things I may want to write about – near the bottom. For instance, this week is filled up with 2010 games (although it’s doubtful I will write about them.)
  6. Highlight anything once it’s done, meetings included. This gives me the immediate flag of “This is done, move on.”

As I cautioned in my first post, this is my system and is what works for me. Perhaps this will inspire you to come up with your own system – whether it’s an expansion on the index card idea, a white board, a cork board, or whatever works for you.

That covers the basics of how I keep myself organized. So what questions or comments do you have? Is there something I didn’t cover you’re curious about? Let me know!

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5 Responses to Writer Organization, Part Three: Plan it Out

  1. Yippeee!!!! I am so excited to have another page to put in my book of all your helpful tips and systems. These are great tools and ways to keep organized which seems to be an issue for a lot of us writers, but with your articles, which I am going to staple and make a book out of it will be next to me at all times so I know what I have to do and by when. Thank you my dear friend!!!! Soooo when is next one, LOL LOVE YA!

  2. Faith Draper says:

    Ok, that’s it tomorrow I am going to the store and getting a planner – I have got to get more organized thus productive and am going to follow your great tips and examples.

  3. good stuff, Jaime. Love my planner. I recommend the BusyBodyBook –great planner with “grids” Love it!

  4. Pingback: Writer Organization, Part Two: Priorities « Written Wings

  5. Pingback: Writer Organization: Planner follow-up « Written Wings

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