I felt like everything was coming at me from all directions, and I didn't know how to address one issue without completely failing at everything else. In fact, I felt about as hopeless as I've ever felt. And that's when I decided to create a daily task list.
This year, I've had more on my plate than ever before, and I actually feel in control (at least most of the time) of my destiny. I still have Writer's Market and Poet's Market; I attended the Blue Ridge Writers Conference and Austin International Poetry Festival; I released a self-published collection of poems that are nearly sold out; I've led 2 Tiger Cub den meetings; and oh yeah, there's still that April PAD Challenge over on Poetic Asides. Plus, I have lots of other daily emergencies to attend to, but like I said, I've been able to avoid feeling too overwhelmed through my use of a daily task list.
How My Task List Works
My task list is very simple. I use a composition book, so that I can have all my tasks centralized. In a 100-page composition book, I'll label 91 pages (or 13 weeks) with the day of the week and the date. The reason I include both day of the week and date is that I don't want to schedule weekday tasks on the weekend or vice versa. I leave 9 empty pages in the back--just in case I need them to make other notes or charts during that 13-week period. I've included a picture to illustrate my process.
|As luck would have it, I am about to finish one Tasks book and start another.
On each day, I only list a manageable number of tasks. Let me repeat that: I only list a manageable number of tasks. I don't list out everything I could possibly get done, because minor emergencies and requests seem to arrive daily. I have to leave time to get those accomplished too.
This forces me to prioritize and break big tasks into smaller pieces that I can accomplish on each day. If I don't get everything finished on a certain day, then I have to move that task on to another day--and depending upon how involved that task is, it may force me to move other tasks around as well. The main thing I try to avoid is having a Mega-List that is completely impossible to achieve, because that sends me back to where I was in April 2010.
Do You Use Lists?
Sometimes a list can reassure; other times, it can intimidate. Either way, lists do give writers something to cross out, which is essential to keeping focus in trying times. My question to readers is this: Do you use lists? If so, how (and when) do you use them?
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Inspired to create your own lo-tech task lists?
Buy a bundle of composition books. They're definitely handy for task lists, but I also like them for composing poetry and outlining my fiction and nonfiction.