Staying organized as a writer can be a huge challenge. We all have other responsibilities, and the crazier life gets, the easier it is for stuff to fall between the cracks—important stuff we can’t afford to forget.
Angela and I are constantly juggling a thousand things, so organization is kind of vital for us. We’ve done a couple of things over the past few years to help with this. First, we hired Mindy, our amazing blog wizard. She’s incredibly capable and enthusiastic, and the work she’s taken off our plates has enabled us to keep on chugging.
But we recognize that this isn’t an option for everyone. Heck, it’s why we took so long to do it ourselves. So I’d like to share another idea with you that anyone can use to stay organized. It’s free and has been a game-changer for us.
Trello, for the Win!
Trello is an online visual tool that allows you to organize projects and track tasks. It’s meant for teams, and Angela and I do use it for our projects, but it has been just as useful for me personally, to keep my own jobs and responsibilities organized.
Each board you create consists of lists, and the lists contain cards that can be dragged and dropped to different spots. Here, I’ve created a board for the year, and I’ve used it to break out my tasks by quarter. There’s a list for each quarter, then in each list, I started adding cards—one for each task. This enables me to track what I need to do and prioritize it all by importance and time sensitivity.
I have a number of boards that I use for different purposes. As a writer, you can use Trello boards to do so many things:
- Collect story ideas you might want to explore
- Make a list of recommended craft books you want to read
- Compile research links for a book project
- Store passages or whole chapters that were cut from your manuscript (to be used later in the story or utilized elsewhere)
- Curate crutch words or overused phrases to search for when editing
- Track edits that need to be made for certain chapters or across a whole manuscript
- Create a list of questions for beta readers to answer once they’ve finished their initial read-through of your manuscript
- Make a to-do list for publishing your next book
- Organize a book launch or other marketing event
- Store the names and contact information for book reviewers, ARC readers, street team members, and other key people
- Record processes so you’ll know exactly the steps for importing a file to Scrivener, editing a digital book file, uploading books at a distributor site, or publishing a blog post
- Gather links for cool writerly gifts you can give to critique partners, your agent, an editor, or your cover designer
- Keep links to spreadsheets, Google Drive folders, Word docs, and YouTube videos for a project all in one spot
- Store marketing information (bios, cover images, logos, testimonials, press kit info, etc.) in one place for easy editing and access
- Track upcoming speaking engagements or podcast interviews, along with the tasks to complete prior to each one
- Gather guest post ideas to pitch to blog influencers
- Track any tasks that have to be done eventually, but maybe not right now
My To Do board shows how Trello can be used to organize tasks throughout the year. But it could also be helpful to create a board for your current book project. It might look something like this, with each card containing links and attachments so you can easily access all the items you need.
As you can see, this tool is great for keeping things organized and reminding you when certain tasks need to get done. Whatever you need to track, create a board for it (10 are included in the free membership) and click the +Add A Card option in any of the columns. Add a title, then double-click it to record whatever details are most helpful. Here are a few features that can be added to each card/task:
- Write a description: Write an overview of this task, and add any links that might be helpful.
- Attach files for easy reference.
- Assign a start date or due date. This is super-handy when you have a task that won’t be coming due for a few months, but you don’t want to forget about it. Any date you assign will show up on the card so you can see it from your board. You can also set a reminder so you can be sent an email prior to the event.
- Create a Checklist (or two, or three…). This is my absolute favorite feature, because what’s better for organization than a list?
Just create a checklist, give it a title, and start adding items. If those items change in priority, you can drag them into a different order, easy-peasy. As you complete items, check them off, and you’re given a status update indicating how much of the checklist has been completed.
This is helpful because there are times when I think a project is finished, or I get sidetracked with something else and forget about it. Seeing the status line on the card acts as a reminder that I still have some tasks to do.
5. Categorize cards with labels. Sometimes, you have tasks spread across your board that are related in some way. Maybe they’re all part of a certain project, they require more research before a decision can be made, or they’re tasks that someone else is responsible for. Create a label and add it to the appropriate cards. Then you’ll be able to see at a glance the cards that go together. Here, I’ve added a blue label for tasks that are One Stop for Writers related.
Use Trello for Collaboration
Writing is more collaborative now than ever before—meaning, you might find yourself one day co-authoring a book, working with other authors on a boxed set, or joining forces for a launch or marketing event. Communicating with other people is super easy on Trello. Just invite the person to your board, and they’ll have access to any lists and cards created there. There’s also a place on each card for comments, so the tasks and projects can be discussed among collaborators.
Let’s face it: there’s so much more to being a successful author than just writing well. Thinking of all the things you have to do can be overwhelming, especially if organization isn’t your strength or you’ve got so much going on that staying on top of it all seems impossible. But as with any area of struggle, sometimes you just need the right tool. Trello has been a lifesaver for me, and I’m happy to share it with you. Because we writers have to stick together.
What tools or resources do you use to stay organized?
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.