Writing Life: Need Help Getting Stuff Done?

19 Jan

Messy Desk

Messy desk by alismith44

I subscribe to the belief that a messy desk is the sign of a creative mind. When I’m fully immersed in the creative process things fly from desk to floor, books escape the bookshelf and wind up in teetering piles on and around my desk. The cellphone disappears under a stack of folders, my iPad goes missing and well…things get messy. Add to that a writing life that demands we be connected via Twitter, Facebook, and various forums, promoting as we create. Add to that conferences and author talks and RWA meetings. Notice I have not mentioned family or a possible day job. If you factor in those last two items it is mathematically impossible to come up with a 16 hour a day schedule that would touch all the necessary foundations that make up a writer’s life. My life won’t fit in a day planner. I don’t stay in an orderly state of mind long enough to get it inside one even if it could.

So my first piece of advice for getting stuff done is to cut back on the amount of time you spend trying to make a plan. Tidy, hour-by-hour schedules just ain’t happening until you can afford a publicist and a personal assistant. In the  meantime, here’s a tool that will let you create a corner of order and a sense of control in an otherwise chaotic life.

Visual Planners



I swiped this idea from the Agile programming crowd. A scrum board is just a big space dived into four rows: Goals, tasks to be done, tasks in progress, tasks completed. It takes the work out organizing what needs doing. This keeps all those notes to yourself about things you don’t want to forget from disappearing into the chaos. It’s emotionally satisfying to physically move items from  To Do, to In Progress, to Done. This is a screenshot of an iPad app called iScrumboard, but a scrumboard can be made of just about anything you have around the house.

Posties on a Background

A visual planner can be as plain or fancy as you like. If the Scrumboard feels too orderly, industrial, and confining for your artist’s soul, add color and creativity to your tool. The screenshots above are from the abcNotes app for the iPad. Posties on a pretty poster would accomplish the same thing.

Cloud Planners


If you need a free planner you can get to from anywhere, try Googling “free scrumboard”. I set up the Scrumblr pictured above to help me with the setup of a new blog at Therianverse.com where I’ll be blogging with Xakara and Cyndi Friberg about Therian Shifters. We’re still putting things together over there so it’s a bit messy 😉

The nice thing about the cloud board is that any of us can add tasks to the ToDo column or pick a task to work on and move it to the In Progress column. This should help us keep track of where we are and leaves each of us free to decide which tasks we want to pick up. We live in different time zones and planning together is easier to accomplish with a tool like this. A bulletin board in the kitchen organized around the same principles might get your family to help with some of the house chores, but I make no promises. At least what needs to be done is out there in a visual form so that you and everyone else knows what the workload looks like.

Okay, your important stuff is safely mapped out in a pretty place. Dive back in there and get some writing done.

How do you manage your work load and keep on track? Post any tips you have in the comments. We’re all desperate for any help we can get.

3 Responses to “Writing Life: Need Help Getting Stuff Done?”

  1. Eileen Gormley January 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Gotta say, one of my favourites is Catch. A lovely app that organises all notes, photos, lists, voice memos, web addresses and which syncs to my computer.l

  2. Kelly Jamieson January 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    I’ve always believed the messy desk is a sign of a creative mind (and you should see my messy desk! My family shakes their head at me.) Check out this article:


    You’ve given me some great ideas about organizing our group blog and things that need to be done – I’m checking out all those tools!

  3. shannonemmel January 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    I have just one question…


    LOL ( I’m just glad that I’m not the only one with a desk like this!)

    BTW– It’s true…A messy desk is the sign of a creative mind, but a clean desk is the sign of a SICK mind!

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