The 15-Minute Writer (part two): 5 Ways to Get Organized

(Read part one of the series here.)

Are you having trouble writing because you can’t see past the piles of books, Post-it notes, and paper on your desk?

Trust me, I’ve been there. I’m a pile-r by nature, a fact that has frustrated my  husband–and me!–more than once.

If you have limited time to write, though, getting organized is absolutely essential. After all, you don’t want to waste precious minutes you’ve scheduled for writing on finding lost items–or clearing your messy desk.

So here are my top five organizing tips for busy writers:

1. First, figure out your organizing personality. For example, don’t try to use notebooks if you’re not a notebook person. If you love technology and abhor piles of paper, go paperless. Hate Google calendar? Admit it! Don’t try to fit yourself into someone else’s mode. It doesn’t work in the long run. If you’re visual, you might need a big bulletin board or calendar on the wall in your writing area.

2. Set up a system you’ll want to use regularly. Why spend time on something if you’re going to dread it? If you love bright colors, use them in your file folders.  Play your favorite CDs when you’re going through receipts—or watch a funny movie while you’re organizing your calendar and notebook.

3. “Backwards plan.” I learned this handy phrase when my husband took a church administration course during seminary. It’s been invaluable for both of us. Here’s a short explanation of the BP process: Take a deadline (or set one for yourself) and mark it on your calendar. Then take all the tasks you’ll need to complete in order to meet the deadline—interviews, outlining, writing a rough draft, revising—and decide how much time you’ll likely need to complete each one. Then plan backwards, setting yourself mini-deadlines.

4. Set aside a few minutes of each writing session for de-cluttering. You need time to delete old material, back-up files, tame paper piles, recycle books, and throw out trash–or you’ll be on the way to auditioning for Hoarders. Once you’ve gotten organized, five minutes a day is do-able and will go a long way toward keeping your desk, computer, and writing space organized. Believe me, once you make this a habit, you’ll be glad you did!

5.Use OmmWriter. (Thanks to writer Duane Scott for this fabulous tip!) He said, “It blocks out all distractions (email, social media, chat messages, etc…) and provides you with a completely white screen with only a blinking cursor. It also offers different peaceful backgrounds and music to accompany your writing. Another great feature: you can set it to have a manual typewriter sound effect when you type.” The cost for all this? A one-time fee of $4.99.”

Your turn: what are your most effective organizational strategies? I’d love to hear them!

18 Replies to “The 15-Minute Writer (part two): 5 Ways to Get Organized”

  1. Fantastic ideas! I agree with Martha, the OmmWriter sounds great, I’ll check it out soon! And I can’t agree more about de-cluttering and maintenance. With my hectic schedule, I can’t afford to lose precious minutes or hours looking for a piece of research, or digging through uneeded files. Thanks for a very helpful post.

    BTW, I’m showing my boss the Google Calendar part. He’s tried to make me use it for months, and I just can’t quite connect to it. 🙂

    1. 🙂 Anita, I’m glad I could help you with a work problem–and thanks for the kind words. 🙂

  2. Thanks for some new information. I clicked on your link to OmmWriter, and it’s interesting. I learned the backwards plan in Home Ec class in high school. We had to write out a time sheet for our cooking prep the day before we cooked. That kind of thinking does helps with deadlines.

    Right now my desk needs organizing. When my real important pile starts to mean nothing to me. I know I’ve left it there too long. Thanks for inspiration to set things right.

    1. You’re so welcome. And I love the backwards plan. It’s been helpful in many areas, not just writing!

  3. Just wanted to add, besides using a software like OmmWriter, I found it really useful to use a simple typing device. I use a AlphaSmart Neo, but there are others. It doesn’t allow for anything else by write, and that’s what we need 🙂

    1. That’s a good thought. Anything that can help us with focusing (and blocking out distractions) is great.

  4. I find it hard to be organized both by paper method and electronically. I’m currently weeding through heaps of printouts of WIPs or notes for WIPS and trashing them because they are outdated and I had to set the project aside for a few years.

    Likewise, it can become unwieldy keeping lots of files for my historical fiction on the computer as well. Different research documents, versions of stories, notes to self, character sketches, the whole 9 yards.

    But one thing I have learned as I am cleaning out and shredding oodles of old paper copies–I’m definitely going to find a way to make the electronic way work. No more paper piles for me! UGH!

    1. BK, I agree…the paper piles are exhausting. But computer files can be just as frustrating if we don’t organize well. I don’t have it all together, for sure. Some days I can’t even figure out where I put it, or remember why I needed it! But being semi-organized, as much as is possible in the midst of a hectic life, has helped me immensely. 🙂

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