A Simple Time Management Tip for Writers: Easily Prioritise All Deadlines and Writing Tasks
Spend half an hour creating this effective color-coded noticeboard, then see at a glance all approaching writing tasks and deadlines: urgent, due soon, and in progress.
Writers working on books have various milestones: the plot, the characters, the synopsis, the first chapter, query letters, outlines, and the final deadline. Freelance writers working on various projects might need to complete a batch of articles, an e-course, promotional material, or a self-help book.
They may also have to post bids for work or write a sample article; they sometimes need to update their blogs or social networking sites to get backlinks to their work. All creative essay writers are likely to have competition deadlines to add to the mix. And what about writers who run workshops or have to prepare information before sitting on a panel?
In no time at all a writer’s calendar can fill to overflowing, and the stress level will rise dramatically. In desperation, writers search for a time management plan that will show them how to handle it all.
A time management ‘expert’ will tell them to make lists then rank the tasks in priority order. The hapless writer finds himself muttering about the “Four D’s” and tries to remember what they were, exactly… was it do, delegate, dump and destroy? Or was there a ‘delete’ and ‘delay’ in there somewhere? Anyway, there was something about delegating…
With a groan, the writer gets busy making ‘to-do lists and tries to rank the tasks in order of importance. But that doesn’t work, because although some of the tasks might not be as important as the article that is due today, they are still essential. If they aren’t done, then something else falls over later.
What to do?
General Tips on Time Management
Pretty much all advice on time management tells people to make lists, delete what isn’t important, delegate what they can, and then prioritize the rest. That’s good basic advice, and most people can make a start on getting back control by doing this.
Then what? A sheet of paper with a to-do list tends to be mislaid. Usually, half the contents are moved to the next day. Then the next. Then the next. Before too long, the list-maker is back where he started – still being overrun by tasks and missed deadlines. Is there nothing that will work?
Enter the color-coded noticeboard!
The Colour-Coded Time Management System
The idea of using color to track various components of a project is not new. Colour coding can be used to analyze the balance of content in scenes, classify email, and sort tasks into groups. The Colour works because it’s so highly visual. A glance can tell people what they need to know.
That’s why this simple time management technique works so well. Writers can tell at a glance what needs to be done immediately, what needs to be attended to soon, and what is in progress. All that is needed is a simple noticeboard and some colored paint. Step by step, this is how it works.
- Start by making a list of whatever is due, overdue, or needs to be done. Now, ruthlessly dump anything that is not important. Delegate as much as possible by finding someone else to do it or bypassing the responsibility back to the person who owns it. (Many people feel they “have to” do something when they don’t – it’s just a guilt trip laid on them by someone else.) If necessary, phone editors or clients and ask for an extension on an ‘impossible’ deadline.
- Go shopping. Buy a cork-based noticeboard big enough to divide into three sections, each of which can accommodate plenty of thumbtacked notes. Also buy some thumbtacks, and three hobby-sized cans of paint in red, yellow, and blue.
- Divide the noticeboard into three wide columns. Paint the first column red, the second column yellow, and the third column blue.
- Write each item on the ‘to-do list on a separate notelet or sticky note. The list should be considerably smaller than it was – it will consist only of tasks that nobody else can do.
- Put all the urgent tasks in the red zone; the tasks that will be due soon in the yellow zone, and anything else ‘in progress’ zone. The red zone tasks may be due within a day or two, or within the week. Write the date due on each task, if this applies.
- Take a good look at all the tasks in each zone, and move them around until they are ranked in priority order; the most pressing at the top of each color segment. (Tip: if two urgent tasks can be completed in a short chunk of time, put them first. It’s a great psychological boost to get something out of the red zone quickly.)
- Work through the tasks in the red zone. Remove each one from the board as it is completed. At the end of the day, rank the remaining tasks again. Check to see whether any tasks blue ‘due soon’ column should be moved into the ‘urgent’ zone.
Now, rinse and repeat! Instead of making any more ‘to-do’ lists, write new tasks on a notelet and add them to the appropriate column on the noticeboard. Keep the noticeboard on a wall near the computer, where a glance will reveal what has to be done next. Worries about time management will become a thing of the past: being organized is simply a matter of adding new tasks to the appropriate zone, monitoring them, and moving them along the timeline.
About the author: John J. Gregg is an experienced writer on https://essaywriter.nyc/ where he provides students with an opportunity to get high grades. Besides, He is fond of reading and playing the guitar. By the way, John dreams of traveling a lot and visiting as many countries as possible.