Happy 2017! I love to kick off the new year by looking at my writing and editing goals for the upcoming months. But making goals isn’t enough—in order to actually reach them, I have to get organized in order to focus on taking active steps forward. If, like me, you’d like to get organized and work on your new year’s writing goals, here are some tips:
- Make a routine
I find that making a writing routine and sticking to it helps me be much more productive. Having a set time for writing—and nothing but writing—keeps me from getting distracted with other tasks. For some writers, this might mean writing every day at the same time. But writing every day may not be possible for everyone. The important thing is to figure out what works for you. Maybe you can only write on Saturdays at 3, or maybe you can squeeze in thirty writing minutes during your lunch break, or maybe you can get up an hour earlier. Whatever routine works best for you, establish it and stick to it.
- Compile your files/notes
If you’re anything like me, you may have lots of notes or files for various writing projects scattered across notebooks, programs, and devices. I find the beginning of the year to be a great time to organize all of these notes and files, and I find it easier to meet my writing goals if I don’t have to scramble to find everything.
To achieve this, there are a few organizational tricks that have worked for me. First, I like to compile of my notes for a manuscript into Scrivener, which is a great program for writers that can be used to store all kinds of notes alongside a manuscript. I sort everything on my computer into folders, transfer the important notes into Scrivener, and make backups of everything on Dropbox just in case. I also use Dropbox to transfer notes from my other devices, like my phone, and sort those too. Once all the files are established and sorted, I comb through my handwritten notes and copy those into the appropriate file. Now, when I’m ready to write, all of my scattered ideas and thoughts are collected in one place.
- Back up your work
This is important all year round, but now is a good time to make sure you have a system for backing up your work. As I mentioned above, I use Dropbox for backing up files, and I also have an external hard drive that automatically backs up my computer. There are dozens of other ways to do it, of course, but regardless of which method you choose, make sure your work is secure.
- Track your progress
I find that tracking my progress is one of the most effective ways to ensure that I reach my goals. It provides daily accountability, and also provides a way to estimate how long a project might take. As for the methods I use to do this, I’ve been known to experiment with dozens of productivity apps, websites, charts, lists, spreadsheets, you name it. Everyone’s preferences here will be different, so the important thing is to find what works best for you and stick with it. But if you’re really looking for something new to try, here are a few things I’d recommend:
- Calendars. I love visuals, so calendars are my favorite way to track progress. One fun way to do this is to get stickers and assign value to them—say, each sticker represents 500 words written—and place a sticker on each day that you reach that goal. (If you don’t want to shell out the money for stickers each month, a more cost effective solution is simply to write your word count down on each date, or to doodle a star or other symbol every time you reach a particular goal.)
- Bullet journals. There are hundreds of examples of these online, if you’re unfamiliar with them. The great thing about bullet journaling is that you can adapt them to your own personal needs. Bullet journals can be really complex (and sometimes looking at examples online can be intimidating), but they don’t have to be. It can be a place to store notes or to-do lists, a place to chart your daily progress, and more. However, I’ve found they can be a bit time consuming to keep up with, so you may want to start simply and expand from there as needed.
- Pacemaker. I recently discovered this site and am really enjoying it. Pacemaker helps you break down large projects into smaller, concrete daily goals. Say you want to finish a first draft in two months. Pacemaker will tell you how many words (or pages, however you want to measure it) you have to write each day in order to finish on time. You can add your progress each day, and you can also set Pacemaker to adjust your tasks if you get behind or ahead. You can also skip days, ask to do more or less on particular days, and more. It’s simple to learn and easy to use.
- If all of this is too fancy for you and you want to keep things simple, there’s always good old-fashioned spreadsheets. You can set up a spreadsheet for recording your word count each day, for example, or the number of hours you spend editing. I usually make a simple template sheet, so that it’s easy to copy it every month to make a new chart.
And there you have it—my tips for getting organized so you can meet your writing goals this year! And if you aren’t sure what your writing goals are, check out this post from last year on new year’s writing resolutions. Good luck, and happy new year!
What do you think? Do you have any great methods for getting organized? Let me know in the comments!
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