Handling the To-Do List Part 2: Daily Organization

Sunday, October 13, 2013
Hello, Muffin fans. Six weeks ago, I blogged about how I felt I did not get any writing accomplished from my to-do list and wondered if I needed help getting organized. 

Step #1 was organizing my multiple calendars into one calendar. I blogged about my experience about a month ago. I thought my calendar organization skills had improved, but I missed a blog post a few weeks ago because I did not see it listed on my online calendar. Or maybe I have too many items on my calendar and simply missed it. Sigh. Back to square one? 

My next step to accomplishing more writing is looking at the list itself. My summer list was divided into three sections: home, school, and writing. Under each category I prioritized projects, listing them in order I wanted to conquer them.

No. Such. Luck.

So, I got to thinking about the items under my writing list. All were "big ticket" items: how-to ebook, YA manuscript rewrite, 'X' number of queries a week, photography skills.

That's when it hit me. (P.S. You, too, should see the problem by now.)

The list was written like I wrote it two paragraphs ago. Each item was an outcome, the final, tangible product I wanted in hand.

What the list NEEDED to look like was more like a lesson plan, a step-by-step breakdown of how I wanted to get from Point A to Point B. Plus, I needed to incorporate action words. (Duh, I'm a teacher; it's how I write my weekly lesson plan!) 

Since I've been paying more attention to the list, I've made a few changes that I'll share. So far, so good.
  • On Sunday, I look at my Google calendar for the week and create a weekly overview of what needs to be accomplished and when I'll have to time to write.
  • When I begin compiling each day's list, instead of simply listing a project, I specify what needs to get done. For example, rather than write how-to book on my to-do list, I may write "find graphics for chapter 2" or "add links to examples." It makes me focus on one area instead of looking at the project as one large task and wondering where I left off the day before. 
  • At the end of the day, I peruse the day's list and see what needs to carry over to the next writing block. This simple step has improved my sleep time. Before, I would go to bed and be awake for an hour or two fretting (obsessing, really) about what did not get accomplished and how I would fit it in the following day. Now, I have a daily plan and I stick to it. Sure, some times, things may be thrown off schedule - hey, that's life! - but if I want to complete four tasks, then I budget time and work until those are finished. 
  • I also realize that sometimes, I do not need a list. Especially true when I'm writing a newspaper story; I could write a news article in my sleep. I don't need a breakdown that tells me to listen to my digital recorder or write a lede that will knock the reader's socks off. 
  • Finally, I try to break up bigger tasks and interject smaller goals into writing time, too. For me, it's a psychological boost that let's me see that things are actually getting taken care of.
  • I would like to say that I've stopped being a perfectionist, because I think that hinders my time management/task time. Yeah, still working on that one. :)
So I'm wondering, readers, how do you use a list to prioritize projects? Share what works - or doesn't work - for you.

By LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.


Margo Dill said...

This is a great idea about the process and not the outcome. I usually write the outcome, too, and then I have to keep transferring it to the next week because of course I don't finish something like: write the next book in my mg series in one week. :) So, it does make sense to write something more like: write chapters one to three this week. Good idea!

Renee Roberson said...

I can totally relate to this post, as I'm getting ready to work on my list for this week! I've had to start breaking down my list a little differently to. I have one section for the magazine I edit, one section for freelance assignments and blog posts, and another one for fiction projects. Like Margo said, I have to be more specific about my lists, too. For example, I'll put that I need to edit 20 pages of my middle-grade novel instead of "work on middle-grade novel." Of course, things do still fall through the cracks because I'm still not good about putting all deadlines in one big master calendar. I'll learn one of these days!

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I need to consolidate calendars, too, and make daily lists small enough to finish.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I need to consolidate calendars, too, and make daily lists small enough to finish.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I need to consolidate calendars, too, and make daily lists small enough to finish.

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