I am one of the most disorganized people in the world when it comes to housekeeping.
Just ask my husband.
The laundry doesn’t get sorted; the dishes don’t get rinsed; the beds go unmade for days. I haven’t cleaned behind my fridge in three years. I use a new teaspoon every time I make myself a cup of coffee (which may explain why there are never any teaspoons in the cutlery drawer).
Interestingly enough, though our home is usually in a state of disarray, I am very organized when it comes to my career as a teacher. My husband actually makes fun of me for how well-planned I am for work.
My writing falls somewhere between these two extremes. I have many aspects of my writing life sorted, tracked and filed, but there are several ways in which I can improve my current system.
If you’re a slightly (or very) disorganized writer like me, here are six ways to get your housekeeping up to snuff:
1. Implement a note-taking system or journal
If you’re anything like me, you have ideas and important thoughts running through your head all day long. So many, you couldn’t possibly keep them all mentally filed.
When I first started blogging, I kept a physical journal for jotting down ideas. It worked well for a while, but the book soon became disorganized enough that I had difficulty locating desired entries.
Now I use a digital note-taking system (free for all platforms with premium service available) named Evernote. It helps me keep track of all my ideas using digital notes, which are then organized into different folders.
(If you’re interested in learning more about how I organize myself with this program, check out my review.)
Of course, if you prefer the pen-and-paper method, that works too.
2. Keep track of your work hours
This is something I have just recently started doing, and it has really opened my eyes to how much time I spend writing–or not writing.
When I thought I spent 45 minutes writing a post, maybe I actually spent an hour-and-a-half (once I’d chosen and uploaded a photo, edited my draft and proofread). Though I thought I’d only tweeted a few helpful links, perhaps I actually took 20 minutes scrolling through others’ tweets and reading articles.
Now that I can see how I’m spending my time–both wisely and unwisely–I can see what changes need to be made to my writing schedule.
Tracking work hours also helps encourage me to work in blocks of at least 15 minutes, instead of doing 5 minutes here and there.
3. Log your word counts
For a couple of years now, I have maintained a word count log for my larger projects.
I enjoy seeing how far I’ve come, and how much time it has taken. Seeing the numbers grow is a great motivator to press on, and it keeps you accountable. If you see large date gaps in the record, you’ll know you’ve been slacking.
If you tend to write short-form pieces like blog posts or magazine articles, keep a running total of words you have written. All those 500-word articles soon add up, and you might be surprised to see how productive you’ve truly been.
4. Organize your work space
My personal writing haven happens to be… my couch.
At the moment, I’m sitting on the saggiest, most uncomfortable cushion of our modular lounge, feet resting on the coffee table (shock, horror!), Macbook on my lap, and a 6-month-old baby propped in the crook of my arm. This, if nothing else, will test my powers of concentration.
Still, not very good for the creative juices.
I don’t have the luxury of an office, or much quiet time during the day. But, if I did, I would be using it to my full advantage.
From first-hand experience, I know a cluttered work space–no matter where it is–is a distracting work space. If you can find a clean, quiet corner in which to work, you’ll most likely find yourself writing faster and better.
5. Track payments and expenses
When I started doing some private tutoring a couple of years ago, I got my first taste of needing to keep track of payments I received, and expenses I had in setting up my home-based business.
If you earn any money at all from your writing, keep a spreadsheet detailing:
- The payment amount
- The source of the payment
- How you were paid (cash, cheque, PayPal)
- The date of payment
Do the same for any expenses you incur for your writing. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim expenses like internet, computer costs, ink cartridges, and stationary on your tax return.
6. Schedule tweets ahead of time
If you use Twitter to promote your blog, book or service, you may notice yourself spending large amounts of time reading and posting tweets each day.
Instead, try using a program like HootSuite to schedule your tweets ahead of time. Leave the program running in a separate browser tab, and whenever you come across a helpful article you’d like to tweet, simply click over, paste in the URL and schedule it.
Also, remember there’s nothing wrong with cutting back on Twitter. If you often use it for chit-chat, you can save some time each day by tweeting only important information and useful links.
While the fatally-disorganized among us may never completely change our stripes, most of us can afford to put more effort into our routines.
Make a few changes to your current system, and see what a difference it makes to your productivity level.
What tips can you share for organizing your writing life?
What are the things you need to change most about yourself?
Join the discussion
Great tips! I am a semi-organized writer. I keep my Moleskine notebook with me at all times. I find that having it with me keeps the ideas flowing all day long. To help keep track of what everything is and where it’s located, I use different colored highlighters.
I created 4 categories for my notebook: Procrastinating Writers, health coaching, fiction and ETC. I chose a different highlighter color for each one. I always write a “title” at the top of my page so I know what it’s about. Then I highlight the title based on my topics (for ex: Procrastinating Writers notes and ideas are highlighted in blue). This helps me find things quickly without having to read through every page.
I am lucky enough to have a home office…but my writing space is my couch, too. I rarely ever use my office, even though it’s spacious and has two desks in it. (It’s pretty much an optimal workspace.) I don’t use the office because of my puppy. He is such a baby and he won’t stay in there with me if I close the door. He just cries the entire time. But I can’t allow him to hang out in the living room by himself yet because he’s really young and still gets into trouble. I’m hoping at some point I’ll think of a way to keep him happy in the office so I can work in there again.
Another thing that’s helped me stay organized is creating a weekly “writing list.” Every Sunday, I make a list of all the things I need to write for the week and when they need to be written by. For example, this week’s list has me writing two Procrastinating Writers posts (one for Wed. and one for today), two columns for SavvyAuthors.com (one for Tues and one for today) and one freelance assignment (written for Friday). As I finish things, I cross them off. I’ve also been trying to write ahead if I can. It’s helpful and frees up my time.
Jennifer, I really do need to keep a little notebook with me at all times, even if I do prefer to use Evernote. At the moment though, I rarely stray from home because of the baby. So, I’ve haven’t needed it as much as I have in the past. Still, I think it’s a great idea. You’re so lucky to have a home office, but it’s unfortunate you can’t make use of it at the moment.
Reading this post I had a serious deja vu. It’s like you were describing me and my organization style. I can’t even describe how my room usually looks like, yet I obsessively record my word count and writing assignments… I sometimes wish I could be well organized in both life,work and my writing… Maybe I’ll try some of the tips here (the scheduling tweets one got my attention, I did not know you could do that)
I have a feeling writers-in general–are not the best housekeepers 😉
Let’s just say, I’m a strong believer in the organizing system called “Creative Chaos” 😀
Christi Craig says
Like Jane, I had no idea you could schedule tweets. Thanks for that tip! And, as for tips of my own: to organize my writing life, I make a list (most days) of my writing goals for that day.
What I need to work on? Finding ways to use my precious – and crunched – writing time more efficiently! I think scheduling tweets will help.
Christi, For a while I was using another tweet-scheduling program called Twuffer, which I think was probably the first of its kind. It was extremely irritating, because you could only schedule tweets in one hour increments (HootSuite allows 5 minute increments), and there was no built-in URL shortener. Glad someone else mentioned HootSuite, or I’d still be doing everything manually!
Barbara Wallace says
This is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites. I’m not sure if I should thank you for feeding my procrastination time or for the helpful advice. Either way, I’ve become a regular visitor.
Magic Under the Mistletoe (Harl Romance 2010)
Cinderella Bride (Harl Romance 2010)
Beauty and the Brooding Boss (Harl Romance 2011)
Wow, thanks Barbara. Let’s just hope the next 100,000 visitors agree with you and decide to subscribe! 😉
Louise Broadbent says
Much needed tips – I owe you…6. Will start with one, though: organise your writing documents on the computer into folders by genre or stage in writing process or another method. I use a winning combo of genre/audience, publishability and latest vs older editions. Also – back up or risk losing it all.
Yes, back up! My sister-in-law called us yesterday upset because her computer crashed and she will probably lose everything. Makes me even more aware of regularly backing-up my precious documents! Thanks for the tips 🙂
Wendy A.M. Prosser says
Thanks for the great advice! When organizing your day, I think it’s also important to schedule time for getting away from your desk, for exercise and for eating healthily. I find I write much more productively when I take regular breaks.