Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.Virginia Woolf
If you’re anything like me, ideas bounce around in your head constantly and your attention is consistently divided between multiple projects. I have four going at the moment – I’m writing this blog, editing my current novel, writing a new novel and finishing a fanfiction I started about 5 years ago (I get quite slack with updating that one).
Multiple commitments are tricky. I want to work on all of them but I know I need to work on one at a time, more or less. I’ve set out 10 tips that I use to help me keep on top of my projects and complete them all as I can
Prioritising your commitments is essential. Work on the most pressing project first and then move onto the next. My blog posts need to be consistent, so they are my priority. Once they’re done, I focus on my other writing commitments.
I will write my fanfiction, edit a chapter of my novel and write a chapter of my new novel if I have time. I want to get the fanfiction done so I make sure I prioritise that, because once it’s finished I can tick it off me ‘to-do’ list. Editing my current novel takes next priority as I want to publish soon. I try to only work on my new novel if I have time, since it’s not as pressing as my other tasks.
2. Keep track of tasks
I have a 2019 diary that I use to track all my commitments. I tick them off one at a time and ensure to work on them daily, as possible. Switching between tasks can throw your mind off, so I try to keep them all in order and not switch back and forth.
This also helps me to keep track of where I’m up too and what I’m working on. I know what I need to work on each day and when I should expect my projects to be completed. It helps me to be aware of what I’m doing and know exactly where I should be each week.
3. One task at a time
This ties in with my previous point – don’t switch back and forth. I work on one project at a time. I set days aside for my writing tasks, for example, Monday’s I work on blog posts, Tuesday’s I work on my fanfiction, Wednesday’s I edit my novel, Thursday’s I work on my new novel, Friday’s I work on blog posts, Saturday’s I edit my novel and Sunday’s I work on my new novel.
Now that’s just a basic timeline – it doesn’t always work out that way, but I try my best to keep to one task a day, so I don’t get jumbled in my mind.
You should find out what you need to focus and stay focused for a period of time. What kind of environment do you best work in and what distractions should you eliminate. This can mean closing Facebook for a block of time or putting your phone completely away.
I need bright lights to stay focused and not doze off. I also find that having some background music helps me – now this doesn’t help everyone, and I know it can be distracting for some people, but it really helps me block out outside noises and stay focused.
Everyone focuses differently, and you have to find what works best for you and stick with it. If you focus better with music, listen to music, or if dim lights help you focus then dim the lights. It’s all about finding what helps you get into the zone.
5. Let others know you’re busy
This is only really needed if you live with other people. I find that you need to tell people you’re busy in order to stay focused and complete your tasks. I’ll often tell people not to disturb me for an hour or pop a ‘I’m busy, please don’t distract me’ sign on my door to make sure I stay focused and keep writing.
One of the worst things to happen is when you’re in the zone and writing like crazy, and someone barges in and starts talking about how a car cut them off on the road on their way home. Sure, it can be interesting and I like talking with people, but when you’re working on your projects make sure you communicate to them that you’re busy and will talk afterwards.
6. Keep a positive attitude
If your writing becomes bland and you are dragging your feet to do it, take a break. You need to stay positive and want to write to be able to write effectively. There’s no point forcing yourself to write just for it to sound horrendous because you are in a bad mood.
7. Keep an eye on your tasks
Basically, don’t overload yourself. If you have four projects going and you’re struggling to find time to balance them all, don’t introduce a new project. I know this can be hard as a writer as your mind constantly has ideas, but you really do need to keep your tasks small.
8. Organisation, organisation, organistaion
I don’t think anyone wants to start working on a project only to realise that a deadline is just around the corner. You need to stay organised and keep your writing space clean and under control. I keep post-it notes around with deadlines, which I mostly set for myself, to ensure things are done and I have everything in order.
Keeping this separate is also essential to organisation – you don’t want to post a blog post up just to realise you accidentally posted a novel chapter instead. I keep all my files separate and I know which notebooks belong to each writing project.
After speaking about deadlines and organisation, it’s a little funny to bring up flexibility. However, to manage your time effectively you need to be flexible. You can’t be completely set in stone with how everything will work, because things pop up all the time that will interrupt that.
For example, I had Tuesday set out to work on a fanfiction chapter, however I realised I was behind on my blog posts, so I spent the day working on the blog posts instead. Blocking out the time for tasks works well most the time, but you need to learn how to be flexible in case things pop up you need to urgently address.
10. Don’t get cauight up in tasks
This ties in a bit with flexibility. You can’t expect to spend every single day working on writing tasks. I have four going at the moment and they’re quite urgent to me, but I know that things can pop up and friends and family want to see me.
I don’t get caught up in completing tasks exactly as I’ve planned them out. I have deadlines to reach, but I can sacrifice a day here and there to be social and work on the writing tasks at a later time. As long as the deadlines are met, you can be flexible and still enjoy your life outside of writing.
Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.Paul J Meyer
That’s my 10 tips to successfully juggling multiple writing commitments. It can be hard to do, but it is very manageable and when the deadlines are met and you complete tasks, adhering to schedules and working on your projects each day really pays off.
What do you do to stay productive and juggle multiple commitments?