5 Steps to Prioritizing Your Writing Time
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Every week, I create a To Do list. Sometimes, I create a second one before the week ends if I get a lot of the first list done OR if I run out of room to add new things that crop up. It works for me.
Why does a writer need a To Do list?
There are many reasons why a writer should use a To Do list. For me, writing is one of the things I do. Plus I work from home.
I juggle a training career which includes developing materials and conducting workshops, a speaking career which involves marketing and developing contacts as well as materials, posting to two blogs weekly, and, of course, my writing and freelance editing. All of these activities and tasks need to be documented, so I have a spreadsheet that tracks activity, invoices, expenses, and payments. If I don't schedule all of these items, I might let something slip or use my time unwisely.
Add to this the responsibilities of raising grandchildren and the home and school-related tasks associated with that, and things get a bit murky. I need my list.
I long for the days when I can focus only on writing, but let's be serious, unless you're a best-selling author or retired, you need another income to support your writing habit.
So, I make my lists. I learned a great way to prioritize my many activities years ago, and I've shared it in Time Management training workshops ever since. Many of my training participants complain that everything is a priority. Although you might feel this way, it’s not true.
The process below should help you to identify what has the highest, or most important, priority in your to do list.
- Create a to-do list of the items that need to be done. Don't worry about the order. Write down everything.
- Prioritize your to-do list with numbers. Approach this by asking yourself, “If I can do only one thing today, what should it be?” Mark that item as number 1 on your list. Repeat the question for number 2, number 3, etc.
- Mark your top three or four items. Let's face it, during the day, something will change. If you've numbered the entire list, you need to erase and renumber it. Why bother? Focus on the top three.
- Check your list for items that can be done in 5-10 minutes. Place an asterisk next to these.
- Divide your available time to complete the tasks and keep moving forward. When you have a few moments before going into a meeting or starting a different task, do one of the asterisk items.
I keep my lists in a spiral-bound notebook with the pages dated. Since the creative writing part of my work kept getting pushed back by other pressing needs (ie getting paid), this list helps me prioritize my writing into my work day. You can't imagine how many times it's helped me find balance between tasks, track down info for a client, or meet a deadline.