Task-Setting For Writers, Part I: Priorities

Welcome to part one of task-setting for writers. This will be a weekly feature for the next several weeks.

To say that the art of writing is time-intensive is like saying chocolate is awesome*.

In my fantasy world, I have an unlimited amount of time each day to work on my projects, still train for a marathon, and give the pool boy a good tongue-lashing. Reality is pretty different. There's the day job, social commitments, housework, cats. Life. All of this chips away at the time I mentally block off as "writing time."

"Writing time" consists of anything that falls into the writing bucket: researching, editing, revising, beta-reading, and *gasp* actual writing. That's a lot to fit in and it's not surprising that everything sorta overflows like that time I forgot to add the flour to the cookies**. The key to stop the overflow is to quit.


Balancephoto © 2008 Hartwig HKD | more info (via: Wylio)
All you need to do is find balance. Balance is that precarious thing that all cats but The White One rock at and we strive for daily. The best way to handle this is to prioritize, multi-task, bargain/compromise, and sometimes say "no."

Part One: Prioritize
Not everything has a "omgimustgetthisdoneNOW" level of importance. For example, rearranging your pens based off barrel color shouldn't take precedence over fixing that problem scene. However, fixing that problem scene shouldn't happen until you mailed out the rent check.

This is where the task list is your friend. Take a sheet of paper and write down everything you want to accomplish for the day. Once the anxiety attack passes, examine each item and label them in order of importance. I use the Franklin Covey priority system***. The Franklin Covey system is based off of letters and numbers. Urgent and important tasks are labeled with an 'A,' middle-of-the-road tasks are marked 'B,' and tasks that can wait until later with a 'C.' From there, you number the tasks within each label from 1-whatever based on how important each one is.

When prioritizing tasks, you should ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is there a deadline?
  • What would happen if I didn't complete this?
Using the example from above, the rent check would definitely be listed as A1 (if I don't pay rent on time, I could be homeless) and the pen arranging C1 (no deadline, no urgency). Assuming that these are my only tasks for the day, the problem scene for me would be A2 because obviously this is blocking me from continuing with the project and knowing me, gave myself a deadline.

Your turn: Write out what tasks you want to accomplish today. What's your A1?

* Which, of course, it is.
** Never forget to add flour to the cookies. Ever. 
*** Disclaimer: I would never have done this on my own, but it was an optional, paid workshop. Always take the freebies, kids. Always.
Last.fm hit of the day: Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC