All this week the Get It Together Blog Hop is featuring authors revealing their tips, tricks, and secrets for staying on top of constantly moving deadlines, promotional efforts, beta reading, social media, basically everything. Today I'm talking about a new tool that I started using this summer to keep myself organized after my traditional to do list just wasn't cutting it. I'm going to give you a little context for what my writing/real person life looks like right now:
- I'm an author of writing under two pen names (Julia Kelly for contemporary and historical romance and Vivienne Thorne for Victorian erotic romance).
- I run First Draught, a monthly writing chat show, with Alexis Anne and Mary Chris Escobar.
- I have a day job in journalism where I'm a news editor which means keeping on top of a staff of reporters and managing various projects.
- My immediate family all lives in the UK. I do not. Hello, juggling time differences.
- I have a lot of friends I like to see frequently including a newborn for whom I'm an honorary "we're not related by blood but she's going to call me her auntie" aunt.
- I'm single and dating in NYC.
- I like to have clean clothes, food in the fridge, eat and drink well, and go to the gym a few times a week.
- I also like to have the occasional weekend off where all I do is soak in a tub, read, and turn into a raisin.
I've got a lot of stuff going on, just like EVERY SINGLE WRITER I'VE EVER MET. Kids, day job, multiple pen names, family stuff, medical stuff, we're all dealing with some combination of things that pull us in lots of directions. We're also a creative bunch, and we tend to overextend ourselves which can be a great thing when those elusive plot bunnies go hopping through our heads. But stray too far off the path, and everything comes crashing down because you've forgotten or neglected things that had to get done.
Becoming a serious, career-oriented writer means sucking it up and becoming an Olympic gold medalist at time management just to keep your head above water. I've done okay with it in the past. I was lucky enough to get all of my professional training as a TV news producer working with a team while multitasking to meet two show deadlines a day. It meant keeping a lot of balls in the air all at once, and I was good at it.
On my busiest days, I mostly survived off of a very extensive calendar and a meticulous to do list. But this summer, even I had to admit that I needed help because my old methods weren't cutting it. I had way more things on my to do list than normal because of a serial I was rolling out under my Vivienne Thorne name that every day stuff like "Pick up dry cleaning" and "Take recycling out" were getting lost on my list. (That's right, I was so crazy this summer that I made notes to shower, take out the trash, and take out the recycling. It was like being back in college during hell week.)
And then Alexis Anne linked to a promo for a free trial for WorkFlowy. The site and app are supposed to supercharge your to do lists. I was skeptical because I've never found an organizational tool that really works the way I think. However, when I started using Workflowy, I fell in love because IT LOOKS LIKE MY BRAIN.
What this program does is it allows you to create lists within lists. Within lists. Within lists. I could go on and on, and it's a beautiful thing.
If you take a look at the graphic above, you can see a little bit of my Julia Kelly to do list (the non-confidential stuff). The first set of bullets are large categories: Personal, Weekend Plan (ie the monster wish list of things I want to do on the weekend of which I wind up achieving only about a third), Work, Julia Kelly, and so on. Within the Julia Kelly sublist, I group all the things related to that pen name. I have a list of things I'm currently writing, what I owe my agent, Emily, and then individual book projects. Each of these subsections gets subsections of their own, just like the newsletter bullet point.
Basically what I'm doing here is creating a hierarchy all within the same massive to do list. If I know that I need to prioritize work on my historical governess series, I can close out the other bullet points and just focus on that task list. I don't need to think about newsletters at that moment, so I can walk away from it until I need to get that newsletter out to my readers. And, hey, when I do I'll remember that I wanted to include links to new works by Alexis Anne, T.J. Kline, Lia Riley, and Serena Bell because I nested that note under Newsletters. If something's really pressing, I can hashtag it #NOW. That link becomes clickable, and I can see all of the things that must get done now. I also have #Weekend and #September hashtags for short-term projects a few days to a few weeks out.
When a project is done, I click "completed" on its little round bullet point. Then, on Sunday night, I go through my entire list and delete all of the completed items. This gives me a sense of what I accomplished this week (even if a lot of them are things like "Pick up shoes from cobbler"), and sets me up for the next week.
And the best part is that all of this syncs to my work and personal phones as well thanks to the Workflowy app.
So that is what my brain looks like. Groups, subgroups, hierarchies, and prioritization all in once place that's searchable by hashtags. Since I've started using the app, I've found that I'm no longer searching for all of the tasks I need to do for my Seduction in the Snow release because they're all grouped together rather than scattered across my unwieldy to do list. It means I'm a losing less time hunting down things I've dropped the ball on and (hopefully) more time enjoying a well earned drink at the end of the day.
Don't forget to check out the other authors on today's stretch of the blog hop!
And make sure to enter to win a ton of prizes including enough romance novels to keep you busy for awhile!