Write It Sideways

6 Organization Tips for Disorganized Writers

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:

  1. The payment amount
  2. The source of the payment
  3. How you were paid (cash, cheque, PayPal)
  4. 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.

Good Housekeeping

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?