A guest post by Ashlee McCullen is a blogger for Apron Addicts.
Over the years, I’ve used various methods for tracking my progress in writing positions. Recently, I even decided to take upon the Getting Things Done system of task management.
But lately, I’ve realized there is no ideal way to record and keep track of tasks and projects, even though in the past I may have sworn by a particular system. I wanted to share my thoughts on a few tools I’ve used, so perhaps you can find a system that works for you.
Tracking Your Writing Projects With Excel
Pros: Microsoft Excel is an incredibly popular tool for tracking projects, and with good reason. Many of us already own it (or use Google Docs or OpenOffice). Plus, you can set up and organize a spreadsheet according to criteria you’d like. (e.g. Client, Type of Project, Deadline, Project Status, Client’s Phone Number, etc.)
Cons: Excel wasn’t made with task tracking in mind (at least not initially), so it may be clunky to organize and filter projects. Plus, you may not realize its full potential unless you know some advanced tricks. And finally, Excel may require too much effort for adding and writing subtasks (e.g. “Write draft,” “Convert to HTML,” “Post on Blog”).
Tracking Your Writing Projects on a Whiteboard
Pros: Whiteboards are monolithic and static, and that’s what many people love about them. A whiteboard can be used any way you like, including more visual approaches. They’re great for conveying information within groups, and for many people, a whiteboard or glass board is simple and visceral, making it more effective than digital systems.
Cons: For all their simplicity, whiteboards can be the most time-consuming to input and update information. Information can’t be dynamically updated or easily rearranged. And finally, there’s only so much physical space in a whiteboard, so it may not hold all the information you’d like.
Tracking Your Writing Projects With Task Management Software
Pros: Task management software like Things for Mac or web-based Remember the Milk have been built from the ground-up for creating, organizing, and checking off tasks. They’re perhaps the most flexible systems for adding items. Some of the more complex ones also allow you to filter by criteria, so you can view only what’s due today or what phone calls you need to make.
Cons: Task managers can force you to accept their criteria of how tasks should be organized. For instance, it may be impossible to organize tasks according to client. Plus, while I find task managers are excellent for seeing what you need to do next, they tend to be less useful for viewing and sorting the things you’ve already done. For that, Excel can be far superior.
The truth is these systems can be combined to powerful effect.
For instance, I often use Excel to record major milestones of projects and to include vital information (URL of piece I’ve written), and Things for Mac to input and track all the little tasks associated with it. Finally, I love whiteboards for keeping small, highly focused task lists.
Ashlee McCullen is a blogger for Apron Addicts, a website about kitchen fashion and home style. When she’s not writing, she takes care of her two small children, finds new ways to organize and decorate her home, and takes immense pride in her killer cheesecake brownies.
How do you keep track of your writing projects?