Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Calendars for Organizing Writing and Life

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig imagesI'm always interested in finding new ways to get organized and take more control over my day.

Although I've been busier than ever with my writing and family life, my productivity has improved in all the different areas I'm juggling---home, as well as writing.

I’m pretty sure it's because of my calendar.

The last time (April 2011) I wrote on this topic, I was still using a variety of different calendars—a wall calendar, a day-planner style calendar, and an online calendar.

A few months ago, I started using Google Calendar for almost everything. Lists of things to do, grocery lists, remembering the dog's heart-worm pill...and now blog post ideas (as a sort of informal editorial calendar.) I've even put my supper plan on my calendar for each day--it reminds me to take whatever the meat is out of the freezer the night before to defrost in the fridge overnight.

I've also tried to go, if not paper-free, then paper-reduced. When the children bring home flyers from school or their activities, I transcribe the important bits into my Google calendar and then recycle the paper.

There are tons of calendar apps out there, but the point is to have something that you can easily change, update, and carry with you. It doesn’t have to be Google. When someone asks me now if I can drive children home from play practice/driver's ed/elementary school, I take a look at my phone. Because Lord knows I can't remember what I'm doing from one day to the next.

I also took this a step farther with my writing...with some excellent results so far. I've mentioned that I hate outlines, but I do love knowing what I'm planning on writing the next day. With my schedule, I need to hop right into the book when I find 15 free minutes. If I use those 15 minutes trying to figure out what scene I need to pick up with, and what I'm trying to accomplish, the writing time is quickly over without my doing any actual writing. So now I jot a line or two on my calendar to remind myself where I want to go with my story the next time I pick it up. If that 10 minutes of time happens to be while I’m waiting for my son to walk out of his high school, then I have my plan for the writing day with me on my phone…and I start right in.

Another nice thing is that this calendar is on a cloud. I can access it from anywhere. If I lose my phone or drop my phone in the sink or something, I can still recover my calendar. If I’m traveling, my calendar is accessible and able to be updated.

One other note--I'm trying an experiment with my calendar....working on more than 1 project at a time. I have two books due at nearly the same time this year, and I've never before been able to work on more than one book at a time. But if I'm being this organized and if I plan the next day’s writing for both books, I’m curious to see if it will work better. I’ll report back on the experiment later.

How are you staying organized and juggling all the things you need to do? Are you a calendar-user, too? What other tools do you use?