Some of the things writers get stressed about are perfectly normal: plot, characters, conflict, resolution, backstory, timelines, world building, consistency, editors’ notes, cover art, titles, book blurbs, good reviews, bad reviews. That’s all fine, because it’s part of being a writer.
But many of us also get stressed about missing deadlines, reaching the end of another day without having written anything, forgetting where we put our notes/contract/cat, drowning in paperwork, office admin piling up, not being able to relax with our family because we’re behind schedule…
That’s not fine, and it doesn’t have to be that way. In my new book The Organised Writer I outline a system that allows you to stay on top of all that stuff, make time to write, and then stay focused while you’re writing.
I know being organised might sound boring! But it’s actually liberating, because it allows you to concentrate completely on writing while you’re doing it — then lets you relax when you’re not writing. I do it every day, and with a bit of effort so can you.
1) Calendar, part 1
Plan at least two weeks ahead. Figure out how much time you’ll need to get a project done and mark out that many days on your calendar. Now when you sit down to write, you won’t waste time deciding what to work on. MORE: 2 Secrets To Unstoppable Productivity
2) Calendar, part 2
If you have to do something at a particular time on a particular day, like send an email, make a phone call, or post a promotional tweet, make an appointment in your calendar with an alert to remind you at that time.
If you’ve got desk trays sitting in a cupboard somewhere, take them out and use them. The most important is the top one, your In tray. Put anything new in there — mail, bills, receipts, notes to yourself — then after you finish writing each day, deal with everything in it until it’s empty. MORE: 12 Unusual And Achievable Productivity Hacks For Writers
4) File everything, part 1
Buy cheap manila folders. Don’t just use them to file your receipts and invoices; devote one to each project you’re working on, as well. Put all your notes and reference in it, so nothing gets lost.
5) File everything, part 2
Put all the files you do use for receipts, invoices, and so on in a single cabinet or drawer, and give them simple, obvious alphabetical labels; R for Receipts, B for Bank statements, I for Invoices, and so on. MORE: 1 Thing That Will Make All The Difference To Your Writing
6) Have a daily word target
Figure out how much time you can spent writing each day. Set a word count target you can easily achieve in that time, say 200 words per half-hour. Hitting that target will make you feel good, because you’ll know you’ve done enough work for the day.
7) It’s a daily minimum
Some days you’ll fly past the target… but every day it resets. If you write 1,000 words today, that’s brilliant! But tomorrow you still have to sit down and write another 200. MORE: 10 Ways To Write 1000 Words by 9AM
8) Write with a ‘clean mind’
Email, Facebook, Twitter, and so on ‘pollute’ your mind and imagination with the real world, distracting you while you’re trying to work. Keep your mind clean by engaging with them until after you’ve finished writing for the day instead.
9) Forget about everything except writing
There’s a lot more, and more detail, in The Organised Writer. But if you use your calendar, desk trays, and files properly, set yourself a word count target, and write with a clean mind, you’re off to a good start. You can learn to forget real-world concerns while you’re writing, and focus completely on the words in front of you instead.
BIO: Antony Johnston is a bestselling, award-winning author whose work includes books, screenplays, graphic novels, and video games. He fits it all in by being very organised indeed! Find more information and ordering links for The Organised Writer.