What are your writing priorities for tomorrow?
That is, when you’ve finished at your day job or cleared away your chores or settled in for some late-night creating, what will you be working on?
(And if you don’t already have your writing blocks scheduled, you better get to it.)
Dabbler in All words, Master of None?
If you’re like most writers, me included, you have tons of ideas about what you want to be writing at any given time. Heck, you may even have several projects in progress at any given time. And that’s fine … as long as you know what your priorities are.
As long as you know what you’re supposed to be working on today, and tomorrow.
That’s why you should make a habit of ending each day by prioritizing your work for the next day. This technique can work for any area of your life, but it’s especially important for your writing precisely because you have so many ideas flying around all the time.
A common scenario is to sit down at your computer, open up Scrivener, and crank out a hundred or so words on your novel. Then a vision of a great blog post flashes through your mind, and you fire up WordPress. You get off to a good start, but the words just aren’t flowing into the post the way they sounded in your head, so you move on again … maybe back to your novel, maybe to a short story, maybe to email, or maybe to nothing productive at all.
This is a sure path to finishing nothing and, I suspect, one of the main culprits in the epidemic of writer’s block that we hear about all the time. Without a clear plan for the day, you’ll twist in the wind.
So here’s what you should do instead …
Prioritize Your Writing Every Day
First, make sure you have all of your writing goals and tasks written down somewhere that is very easy to access. You can use any kind of tool you want for this, but I find Kanban boards extremely useful, and Trello is about the best of the lot. It’s also free.
OK, now, every night before you go to bed, set aside five or 10 minutes to review your writing world — the list of projects and tasks that you have on your plate. During this session, ask yourself, “What is the most important short-term goal for me to accomplish in order to move closer to my writing dream (whatever that may be)?”.
Be honest with yourself here, and don’t just go for sexy. Sometimes (usually) it’s more important to finish that next chapter than to find the perfect accent color for your website, as boring as that may sound.
Once you have identified your most important goal, then ask, “What is the one most important task I need to accomplish tomorrow to achieve my most important short-term writing goal?”
Now, take that task and move it to the top of your list (this is really easy to do with Trello).
Don’t Stop at the Top
Repeat this process over and over, building out your second, third, fourth, etc., most important tasks for the next day. Keep going until you’re confident you have identified enough work to fill whatever time you will have available for writing.
Once you have your list ordered, read down it one last time and then hit the hay.
Now the tricky part: when you sit down to write the next day, start at the top of your list and tackle that number-one task.
Don’t stop writing or change tasks until your most important one is finished.
When you can confidently and legitimately check that paramount task off your list, then move on to number 2.
Rinse. Repeat. Produce.