Writer at Work: Staying Organized

People often comment that I seem to be a very organized person. The truth is I’m naturally rather scattered. As a teenager, I would forget to bring my pencil case to school if I hadn’t made sure to pack it the night before. Last year I threw out tickets to a concert I was very much looking forward to because I wasn’t being careful enough when I cleaned out my shoulder bag (thankfully I was able to get replacements, but at additional charge). And I will not take a picture of the mess that is my desk right now (and any time, except within the first few days after a cleaning) because I am more embarrassed by it than interested in fully proving my point. 😉

The thing is, I also have a strong, inherent aversion to forgetting responsibilities and letting people down. So I’ve developed ways of adapting to my own disorganization–like making sure to pack my pencil case (or, these days, whatever I need for the next day) the night before.

Since selling GHOST, I’ve been finding it more and more important to stay on top of things. It’s not just my personal writing endeavors and my day job I have to keep track of these days. Now there are my responsibilities to the various author groups I belong to, requests for bookmarks, prizes to send out, interviews and guest posts, events and school visits. How have I managed to keep all those balls in the air? Here are a few of my strategies:

Online Organizer

Several months ago I realized I was stressing myself out trying to keep all of my long-term to-dos in my mind at all times. I’ve never found a paper or electronic organizer very useful because I just forget to look at them. But I check my e-mail all the time. So I went in search of an online organizer.

The one I found that suited my needs best is Your Organizer. The timing’s a little odd because it’s based in Australia, and it’s sometimes slow to load, but it has never failed to e-mail me to remind me that tomorrow I need to do a blog tour post or fill in for a shift. And knowing that I’ll get that reminder makes it so much easier for me not to worry about forgetting.

To Do Lists

In more than one way. I’ve always done the traditional scrap-of-paper scrawled out list of things I need to get done in the next 24-48 hours, and it’s a great way to stay focused on my immediate responsibilities. But it can also be great for long term tasks that require more detail than is practical for the organizer. For example, I started a document at the beginning of the year of every person who’d asked me to do an interview or guest post, with a note of whether I’d received questions yet, and gradually moved them into the “completed” section at the bottom of the file as I finished them.

Unread Messages

I like to read e-mails as soon as I’ve noticed they’ve come in, but I don’t always have time or the information to respond right away. So I mark the messages I haven’t responded to as unread again, and seeing them in my inbox reminds me that I still need to reply to them. (Before I started doing this, I did frequently forget to answer e-mails because they slipped my mind and vanished into the depths of the inbox where I wouldn’t notice them.)

So, that’s me. What are some of the ways you stay organized?

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