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Hit Lists Help This Freelance Writer Keep Track Of To-Do Stuff

I’ve got more than one project on my plate. I’ve got my own writing, including creating ebooks and webinars. I’ve got my partnership with Lori Widmer in AboutWritingSquared which includes the 5 Buck Forum and more webinars. And I’ve got clients who pay me for my writing.

Keeping all these balls in the air, or the plates spinning, is a trick – keeping track of them is the key for me.

It turns out I want to keep track of at least four kinds of information:

  • What I really want or need to get done today.
  • What I’d like to get done if not today, soon.
  • What I want to get done someday, but not today.
  • Procedures and processes I know I’ll repeat, but not often enough to have them really memorized.

I haven’t yet found a calendar system that will let me see all these in a way that’s useful to me.  So I developed my own. It’s not pretty, and it’s not automatic, but it’s working for me.

The first part is what I call my Daily Hit List. It’s a Word file that looks, in part, like this:

writer gets organized

As I work I strike through the things that are done.

Each morning I copy yesterday’s into today’s date, double check on what I did yesterday, add and subtract to today’s list and begin my work.

It generally takes me no more than 3 minutes to survey the day and know what I’m about.

It’s chores like ‘promote google+ webinar Linkedin Groups or the steps involved in setting up a webinar, including the PayPal buttons that my other kind of hit list really shine.

These are examples of procedures and processesI have had to learn, often with calls to customer service, that I don’t use every day. In order to quit reinventing those wheels I set up a a hit list for each of them.

Here, to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, is the start of my hit list for promoting to LinkedIn Groups:

Right now I’m promoting two – the Learn Google+ in a Hurry webinar and Finally Get 3 Queries Written in 4 Weeks webinar.

When I get done I’ll have a link to each group I use and the date I promoted which webinar there.

When a webinar is over I’ll just delete that column. I’ve actually got a form I can use over and over again.

This list actually does several things. It keeps a record of the list and of the date I promoted which webinar. It also let’s me do the promo over and over again without remaking the form. As I join new groups and leave others I can update the list simply.

I also have a hit list on marketing webinars in general and even one on the steps to create one.

I do also need a calendar, and right now I’m again working with Google’s. My biggest challenge is to look at it often enough.

This system obviously isn’t for everyone, but it’s working for me right now.

And that’s the point. Every writer, every freelancer who handles more than one project at a time needs some system to keep track of it all. Experiment. Figure out what you need, and if you have to create one that’s unique to you, go for it.

Know too, that like so many tools we use, there may come a time when yours stops working – it’s happened to me. Don’t hesitate to let go of what doesn’t work in favor of what does.

Oh, someone asked me why I call these hit lists. It comes from the notion that when I wake up I want to ‘hit’ it as in get work started fast and well.

How do you keep yourself organized?

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Clown Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by shawnzrossi

 

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Sandy Sampson

    A few years ago I stumbled across a task flow worksheet. I find it very useful as a way of organizing the “hit list” of things I need to get to. I don’t use it quite the way the creator envisioned, but it works for me — I like putting pen to paper instead of always being online, and figuring out my day or week from an unencumbered perspective. Here is the link:

    http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/course-of-actions-task-flow-mapping-your-day.html

    • Nice… thanks for the link… I won’t use it, but I love lifehacker and I know at least one person who will when I show it to them.

  • Lisa Nicholas

    I’m about fed up with electronic task lists — they can be such nags, and they never forget a task, even if I do! I’m thinking about going to something very basic — a paper to do list — individual bits of paper in stacks or on a bulletin board, that I manually from move from the “do it” to the “done it” pile. Then I get the visceral pleasure of wadding up & throwing away each little bit of paper when I’ve actually finished a task!

    • Mentally picturing you wadding up the list and tossing it… makes sense to me.

  • I love love love to use kanbanflow.com to do all of this. I’ve got little kanban boards for just about everything now, but I keep a big one full of all the things I need to keep track of and it works brilliantly.

    • Lisa Nicholas

      I posted my comment just before I saw yours. I’m going to check out Kanbanflow.com. It looks like a digital version of my bulletin board idea. Love the dragging a task from one column to the next.

      • Yeah, I just tried it and it looks like it might be a winner.

    • Wow, Carmen, that looks much like mine doesn’t it… I just signed up… will be fun to play with, thanks

    • Does this kanbanflow.com thingy work with something like Evernote.com?
      I love evernote to keep track of my stuff but I have a problem getting from stuff to finished products-blog posts, etc.
      A to do list just gets lost on my desk, and that task program drives me nuts because I’ve never been able to figure out how to delete things from it.
      Ann: this is the first time I’m posting and I want you to know that your newsletter is very helpful. I am getting more done using your tips.
      thanks to all!
      Michal

      • I love the idea that you’re getting more done as a result of using some of the tips here… good for you.

  • I love this Anne! This is so very helpful in keeping myself organized as I tend to get overwhelmed with my day to day tasks as a freelancer which makes me unproductive. Thank you for sharing this.

    • I’m getting the biggest kick out of how many like my ‘hit list’ approach – maybe I should call it the hit and miss approach and trade mark it. 😉

  • Liz

    This may be just what I need. I don’t have as much going on for me as you do, but the little I have to keep up with sometimes leaves me feeling hassled. Thanks, Anne.
    Liz recently posted..How to Meet Deadlines in Your Freelance Writing CareerMy Profile

  • I like this, Anne. I particularly like your promotion system. As soon as I have something to promote, I’m sure it will come in handy. 😀

    I run a weekly list, but it’s handwritten on my calendar. I don’t know why, but it is somehow therapeutic for me to write it on my calendar and to cross out completed tasks. I have to have Week-at-a-Glance. Any more than that and I feel that overwhelmed phenomenon. 🙂 It’s like the porridge – it’s not too little, not too much – it’s just right.

    Since I do so many long-term projects, I have a memo note with the month’s due dates. It’s not as bad as it sounds as it only includes milestone-type due dates.

    My sister gave me “CM” photo holders that I use for my memo. It’s smack dab in front of my face so I don’t have to keep going back to my project file to see when something’s due.

    I have a spreadsheet for income, marketing, and expenses goals that is updated monthly (at a minimum). It has projects on it like ebooks, guest posting, etc.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Friday Lite Posts Bow OutMy Profile

    • I don’t handwrite much of anything because my handwriting is so poor I can’t read it. I meet with two others in sort of a mastermind and if I’m writing by hand there I print then transfer it to the computer… a spreadsheet does help too… I forgot about that.

  • Cheryl Reifsnyder

    I love this! I use teuxdeux (www.teuxdeux.com) to track my to-do’s, which I like for it’s clean interface…but it doesn’t offer the bigger picture that I need sometimes. I think I will have to start a “hit list” of my own. Thanks for the tips!
    Cheryl Reifsnyder recently posted..Thursday’s Thing to Love About Being a Writer: the Power of WordsMy Profile

    • Cheryl, I’m so glad you found my ‘hit’ lists helpful… and yes, it’s the big, or at least larger, picture they provide that I find so useful. I’ll take a look at teauxdeux… love the name.

  • Mine is simple — a virtual sticky note on my desktop with the things I have to do the next day. I don’t want my to-do list to become my full-time job! And it would if I put any more time into it. I’d organize myself into a stupor if I’m not stopped. 🙂

    • No one has ever accused me of over-organizing 😉

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