I knew I needed to change my “system” when I was becoming more stressed and less fulfilled. As a writer, I felt like there were never enough hours in the day to do everything. I wanted to do too much, and I wanted to do it now. I was piling so much on my plate and stretching myself far too thin. It was important for me to write each day. However, so many things often got in the way of my daily word count goal. When doing everything became impossible, I became discouraged, which created a negative cycle.
The thing is: there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want. Once I admitted that, I realized I needed to change my system to better fit my writer’s lifestyle.
I began by writing down a list of everything I wanted to do. And I mean everything: from long-term goals like publishing a book to short-term goals like refreshing my portfolio.
Once I did this, I noticed a trend: many tasks I wanted to do took some time to complete. Most of them were projects that went through various stages of completion, and others required ongoing, never-ending maintenance. In the past, I have always set goals for the day, but would beat myself up if I didn’t complete them all. That’s when I realized my expectations for myself were unrealistic. I needed to start thinking in terms of days instead of hours.
First, I switched from Daily Tasks to Weekly Tasks.
After accepting the fact that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, I gave myself permission to take more time.
I started with my bullet journal. Instead of having a daily to-do list, I began a running weekly Master Task List. There, I wrote down everything I wanted to complete by the end of the week, instead of the day. Then, as I prepared for each day ahead, I cherrypicked the tasks I was up to tackling.
This gave me the flexibility of only selecting tasks based on my mental health and availability. If some days were unpredictably busier than usual, I didn’t have to feel bad if I couldn’t get to a certain task because I still had the rest of the week to complete it.
Next, I implemented a Content Calendar.
When I ran a digital fashion magazine in my early 20s, I created a Content Calendar to help me prepare features a month or two in advance. A Content Calendar is just what it sounds like: it’s a calendar (I use a weekly format) where you can plan out what content will go live each day. At Cliché Magazine, my team and I had a week when we brainstormed content ideas for the following month. Then, we decided when each feature would go live. That way, we had a better idea of how much time we had to reach the deadline.
While I’ve often prepped blog posts a week in advance, rarely have I planned content a month out. However, working a month in advance again has given me much more time to prepare thoughtful content without feeling rushed. I’m still getting the same amount of writing done, but now I’m much more prepared and less stressed out.
Then, I recruited help from apps like Ulysses and Trello.
Discovering the apps Ulysses and Trello changed my life this past year.
Ulysses, which replaced Pages and Microsoft Word for me, is my favorite writing processor app purely for its easy organization and customization. Here, I can keep track of all my different projects all in one place without opening various windows in my Documents.
Trello’s kanban-style design makes it even easier for me to implement my Content Calendar. Here is where I schedule tasks for the week or the month, arranged by stages of completion.
For example, I have one Trello board called January 2021 Content with the following lists: To Write, Creating an Outline, Writing Draft, Taking Photos, Editing, Promo Copy, Scheduled, then finally, Published. I start by placing a blog title idea in the To Write column, then drag and drop it along the columns as it nears completion.
Both apps help me visualize the various moving stages of my writing, and I can’t recommend them enough.
Finally, I schedule the content in advance.
Once my writing projects are complete, I schedule them in advance. This way, they are all ready to go come their publish date and I can shift my focus to my next project. There is also much more freedom and flexibility when scheduling content in advance, especially when needing to make last-minute switches or changes. I schedule all blog posts to go live on WordPress, then finally, I schedule their corresponding social media posts to go up on Buffer.
My writing projects have gone much smoother ever since.
Do you have a system for your writing projects or personal goals? Join the conversation by using #TheWritersLifestyle on Twitter, or leave a comment below.
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.