Welcome to the third monthly blog post in my #7LessonsLearned series, where I will be sharing lessons and tips - in sets of 7 - about the writing and editing world. Today's post is about being organised! There are so many ways to keep yourself organised, even with a hectic life. I have two little kids, a full-time job as a primary school teacher and I write (and do all the other stuff that comes along with it!).
1. Know what's in your week
This is definitely tip number one! There is no way to actually stay (mostly - let's not pretend surprises don't happen) organised if you don't know what you need to get done. This could include things like:
Kids routines - e.g. drop off/pick up, swimming lessons
Household duties (someone has to change the kitty litter right?!)
Author stuff - e.g. writing, social media, blog updates, newsletter
Make a nice big list of all of these things and when they are going to happen. If you're like me, the author stuff has to come at the end of the list, so be sure to have everything else noted down including how long it will roughly take.
I find that it is easier to plan and set expectations for my author stuff after the rest is laid out.
2. Types of planning
There are so many types of planning you can use to keep yourself organised, and often what you are doing will impact the kind you select. Since this is the case, I am going to go over the types that I use and how they fit in with me. I use:
Excel and Google Sheets
See the next three points for more detailed outlines on how I use these to keep organised for my author business.
The type of checklists I use range from notes scribbled on paper to Google Keep to Notes on my iPhone/iPad. Generally, my checklists are made up of the day to day tasks that come up as I am doing something. For example, when I was writing my book blurb recently I added onto the list a. to get it done and b. to put the blurb on my website.
Benefits of a checklist:
Keeping track of pop-up tasks
Help to keep focus - if you can add something to the list for later you are less likely to get pulled aside from what you've assigned in that timeframe
Feeling of success! It is a positive experience to achieve something. The physical tick is a boost!
4. Desk calendars
I use my desk calendar exclusively for my website and social media organisation. I used to use Sheets only which I will mention below, but I found I needed a more 'in my face' visual to keep on track, particularly when people are relying on me.
My desk calendar covers:
Book tours and author interviews - when to prep, email questions and launch
Blog posts - when to prep and launch
Newsletter - when to prep and what to launch
When to share on social media inc. social handles
I like to colour code my calendar, so each of the four dot points above gets its own colour. I prefer to use erasable pens in case I need to make adjustments. Generally, I keep the above pretty routine, e.g. Book tours go out on 1st/15th or 16th of the month, these blog posts on the third weekend of the month and newsletters on the last day of the month. Prep is scheduled depending on how long I need for each one.
I used to hate Sheets - whether they be the excel or Google kind. Now... not so much! One use for Sheets in regards to planning is for my yearly overview for book tours and author interviews. Within this document, I record names, book titles, social media handles and hashtags, all of which get transferred onto each month to the desk cal (minus the hashtags).
This type of organisation allows me to figure out when I am booked up and when I have availabilities for features and need to do a call out on social media to find more authors.
My other primary organisation use for Sheets is to set out my yearly publishing schedule (NEW!) which includes each month, books being worked on and the phases that are being worked on, e.g. writing Jan-Feb, editing and betas Mar-Apr, Covers Mar and Publishing May.
Some other things I now rely on Sheets for:
Word count tracking
The publishing process, inc. launch
Bonus: Sample hashtags (Some for Twitter, some for Insta) - #writer #writerlife #author #amwriting #amwritingfantasy #writingcommunity #readingcommunity #amreading #fantasy #booksofinstagram #bookstagram #booksofinsta #authorinterview #blog #blogger #bloggerlife
6. Writing time
This one is super important! You know, if you want to publish your work anyway. You might be working on anything from blog posts to short stories to novellas or novels (plus a myriad of other options). In order to get this done, you need to set aside time to do it.
For me, with a hectic life, I make sure I do this by tracking my word count and doing writing sprints. My writing sprints are 15 minutes long and I do them throughout the day depending on what the rest of my life looks like. If you are working in sprints and not word counts - set yourself a minimum!
On a usual week when I am only writing (not editing another book), I do three sprints a day. Finding 45 mins can be a challenge, but finding 15 mins three times is much easier! Usually, I do one in the morning before the kids are up, one during the day (usually when I get home from work) and one at night.
It is really important that you commit to this above all else if you want to be a writer. Each sprint for me usually has a range of 350-600 words depending on how much planning I've done for a section (or how tired I am).
'You can't edit a blank page', really is true! Commit to the words! Even 1x 15 min sprint @ 400words avg. per day you could write 2x 70k novel drafts a year!
You. Can. Do. This.
This one has been a life saver for me and it's what really got my writing kick-started in a scheduled kind of way. I have a few ways of being accountable:
My critique partner
My writing groups
Knowing people are waiting/relying on/expecting things from you is bound to kick your butt into gear. It also means you have support behind you, people to help pull you out of lonely and confused writing holes and ruts.
In terms of those lists/cals/Sheets - trust me when I say the last thing you want to do is leave a 0 count on your spreadsheet when you normally write for those 15 mins each day! That one is self-accountability for me.
Find some ways to keep yourself accountable!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and that you’ll be back to check out the rest of the series as it arrives. Next up is about staying motivated. If you missed last month's article on creating and on-brand blog, you can find it here.
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Happy reading & writing!