Writers tend to juggle several projects at once, in addition to all of the other things they do during the day – billing, networking, searching for work, living life, etc. There are times when it feels like there are never enough hours in the day to complete everything.
The bad news: there isn’t enough time. The good news: not everything has to be finished today.
One of the craziest things that people do when trying to manage their time is giving each to-do item equal priority.
I’ve talked with friends who have said that everything they do is important. I get it, I like to feel important and busy too, but everything I do throughout the day does not have equal importance. It took me a long time to figure out how to prioritize, but let me spare you the years of bewilderment with three ways to put your priorities in order.
#1 Develop a System
Tornadoes, terror alerts, snow emergencies, they all have one thing in common – set standards that determine which actions to take and when they should be taken. Is that email about dinner as important as the email about accepting a new gig? Is deleting spam as important as editing a piece to make your deadline?
Whether you use color coded Post-Its, numbers or electronic alerts, develop a system that combines standard actions with level of importance. Be careful not to set too many levels. An overly complicated system is ineffective – right, U.S. color-coded terror alert system?
#2 Make a decision.
Trying to figure out where things land within your shiny new system is the toughest part. Start with the obvious items – deadlines, contracts, billing, etc. Then move on to communication items such as research and writing, followed by social networking and follow-ups. Or work backwards – whatever works for you!
#3 Stick with it.
Another thing I have struggled with is implementing a system and sticking with it. It’s one thing to tweak things along the way, but it’s unproductive to scrap the whole thing and start over every couple of weeks. Give your system a chance to work and become a habit.
There are only 24 hours in the day. At some point you have to sleep, spend time with your family and eat. The rest is filled with deadlines and to-do’s. Successful writers figure out what must be done and when to do it.
How do you manage work priorities?
John Soares says
Terreece, I use a daily planner, along with monthly lists of priorities. I rank my priorities for the day from #1 on, and then I start on #1 and don’t stop until it’s done. And then on to #2, etc.
Of course, some days don’t quite work out that way…
Sharon-anne Osenenko says
I read a book by Brian Tracy a gajillion years ago called “Eat That Frog”. It is my go to book for all things related to time management and goal setting. Every afternoon, before I leave my desk, I make a list of my looming To Do’s. Then I prioritize them, A, B, C or D. I further break them up by numbering them, for example A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, etc etc. I don’t move to my B list till all my As are done. C is reserved for things that would be nice if I got to, and Ds are things I can generally delegate to someone else. As a home based freelancer, I don’t have lots of D’s. Most of them revolve around housework and bribing my children.
I HIGHLY recommend “Eat That Frog” to anyone who is struggling with time management issues.