19 October

The Importance of Writer To-Do Lists...



I know.

Today's topic is not sexy or romantic or adventurous in any way. It may have only come in above watching paint try. But it's an exercise that few new writers complete, and before you can complete your writing goals, you need to know what they are, on a daily basis.

A writing To-Do list is the key.

It's a psychological contract with yourself — yes, there's that shrink-think again... — forcing you to a) decide what can be achieved each day on your book, and b) list those To-Do's in their most crucial order, so no deadline, manufactured or real, will be missed.

Hold on! Don't X me out yet! Get back here! 

This isn't rocket science. You seriously think I'd be doing it, if it were? But it truly is important IF you want that book of yours done.

This exercise does NOT entail a great big ugly effort on your part. In fact, the easier you can formulate it, the better. NO sticky notes. NO knitting string. NO Excel sheets. NO graphs. NO charts. NO nothing complex. PULEEZZZ, we writers have enough headaches! 

I just downloaded the free and easy to use Color Note app on my cell phone. The simpler the note, the better. In this exercise, FEWER bells and whistles is best.

Start with the date:

  • then add each To-Do on its own line
  • only use a few words to describe each To-Do
  • line up from most crucial to least or,
  • quicker ones at the start, longer ones at the end
  • and only have, at most, three writing To-Do's set up for each day
  • or the amount of To-Dos you know you can reasonably complete in your writing session
  • Don't over pile the To-Dos
  • Don't assume it takes less time to complete each task; it'll take more. Double the time needed.
  • At the end of each writing day, delete/line out the tasks you've completed
  • Re-evaluate the time it took to complete those tasks
  • Move the uncompleted task(s) to the next available writing session
  • If your writing work week begins on a Monday, use Sunday to plot out a week-long To-Do list
  • Attempt to spread the bigger projects out, paired with smaller To-Do's
  • Segment those big projects into doable daily sections
This exercise should only take you a few minutes, at most, but it will save you so much time and wasted energy and the stress that comes from Decision Fatigue. Yes, DF is a real thing. If you have to make too many decisions in a day, on top of the word choice decisions every writer has to make to even formulate one sentence, that fatigue will set in, and that pathetic choo-choo train will stop at Writer's Block Corners, if you get my drift.

So, eliminate the Big Picture decisions with your To-Do List!
I can wake up and look like a zombie (hey, no joke), glance down at my list, and know exactly what I'll be doing once the caffeine kicks in. I don't have to hum and haw about what needs doing. I simply start completing those To-Do's.

Back to that psychological contract...
  1. If you put your tasks down in writing, it has your mind re-think their importance. If you leave those tasks up in your head, they never become a real thing; hence, you never take them seriously, and they never get done.
  2. By putting your tasks down on paper, virtual or real, it frees you up from the cyclical worrying that will keep you awake at night when your mind and body needs to rest. You assume that the moment you write those tasks down, you're free to stop thinking about them for the night. You know you'll see that list again come the morning. It's a way of not taking your work home with you, so to speak.

HOMEWORK: Tonight, formulate your list. Don't overload that list. Assume it'll take you twice as long to complete each task. Over time, you'll better gauge the time it will take. And at week's end, set up the daily tasks as you see them ironing out for the next week.

If you do this one simple thing, and keep doing it, your book will get done, quicker than you ever thought possible, and without that choo-choo train stopping at Writer's Block Corners. 

Don't stop there. The station food is horrible, and the station master is a meanie. ;-)

No comments: