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Friday, June 19, 2009

Five on Friday: Top Tools for Staying on Track

My life is a veritable feast with many wonderful things on my plate: family activities; church; writing; running two blogs; reading and reviewing books as an influencer; editing a newsletter for a writers' group; Toastmasters; and more. Keeping track of the tasks involved in each area is vital.

I've come up with a system that works for me. It involves five tools, which live at my computer desk within arm's reach.



Here are my top tools for staying on track:

1) Pen

I used to be a ballpoint kinda gal, but when my age and reading glasses prescription increased, I switched to a marker with dark, easy-to-read ink. Being a bit OC, I'm particular about the pen I use: a Pilot Razor Point Extra Fine marker in black. I've been known to moan when I'm down to my last one and Office Max is out.

Desk Calendar

My family uses a wall calendar, but I have a number of appointments and activities that don't involve them, such as the dates of my blog guests at Romance Writers on the Journey, contest deadlines and Toastmasters meetings. I searched for a calendar that worked for me. Because I like things neat and because my reading vision isn't what it used to be, I wanted large squares with lines.

At long last I discovered a calendar from DayMinder that fit the bill. Model SK2 is taller and thinner than a normal 8-1/2 x 11 version, which allows for five good-sized rows. Each day has a full square, even Saturday and Sunday. This calendar is spiral-bound, so it lies flat when open. It's just what I was looking for, and I'm a happy camper.


3) "Blog Guests" Binder

I generally have two guests a week at Romance Writers on the Journey. Each interview involves a number of steps. In order to keep tabs on which ones I've completed for each of my guests, I created a checklist. I file these by date in a half-size black leather binder. With the flip of a page, I can see what tasks I've completed for each guest and which remain to be done.

4) Small Sticky Notes

I have stacks of 1-3/8 x 1-7/8 inch sticky notes. I use them to record my to-do items, one per note.

5) "To-Do List" Binder

The sticky notes filled with tasks are filed in my To-Do List binder. I'm one of those people who keeps an on-going list. Because I like things neat, I found myself copying my list quite often. I knew there had to be a better way.

Recently, I came up with a unique way to keep a To-Do List, one that can be easily updated. I use a full-size black leather binder with colored plastic dividers. I have three banks of eight. The first has a daily tab and one for each day of the week. The second and third banks list different tasks related to my areas of involvement, i.e. Interviews to Write, Contests and Household.

I file the stickies in the appropriate sections and move them around as needed. There's no more writing and rewriting of To-Do Lists. It's just peel, flip and stick. Quick!

It's taken months for my system to evolve and to find the tools that work well for me, but I persisted. I'm glad I did, because I'm better able to keep my plate balanced and insure that everything gets done in a timely manner.

• • • • •

As writers who also have jobs, families, hobbies, club memberships and more, we have lots on our To-Do Lists. How do you keep track of all you need to get done? What are your favorite tools for keeping tabs on your tasks?


Anne Barton said...

Keli, you are AMAZING. What a system! Thanks for the insight into how you juggle everything you do.

One strategy that works for me is to print out a monthly calendar where I record what I want my page count to be at the end of the writing week. It really helps me to see how meeting my weekly goals will let me complete a draft in x number of months.

I'm off to make that weekly goal. :) Hope you have a great weekend.

sherrinda said...

Oh My Goodness!!! You are Super Woman With A Plan! Seriously, I am just so impressed with your system. One of my strengths (in a Strengths test I had to take for work) is Adaptability. I go with the flow and can easily adapt. So, while I do keep a monthly calendar (that may or may not have everything written down in it) I pretty much am a seat of the pants kind of gal. Hhmmm. Maybe that is why I don't seem to get much accomplished! lol
I'm going to try your sticky note idea. :)

Keli Gwyn said...


I like your idea of putting a word count goal on the calendar. Having mine visible would spur me on. I'll have to add that to my system.


The Super Woman cape goes to you. Not only do you have a larger family than I do, but you work full-time and still make time for your writing. That's what I call impressive.