How do you keep on top of your workload? Are you a list writer or just someone who crosses off jobs in your head? And how effective is that for your overall writing process?
When I was a journalist there was one thing I had to have on me at all times, and that was my diary (or planner, if you prefer). I'm not the type of person who can simply visualise a schedule, I need to have things noted so that I can use it as a constant reference. I am like many others.
It's also important to know what type of diary suits you best. If you prefer to have a lot of writing in the one place, you would probably want a 365 day planner. However, if you're someone like myself who needs perspective on how much needs to be done before a weekly deadline, then a weekly planner where you have a smaller space for writing is the smarter option.
Writing my first book, I used diaries as a tool to keep me motivated; setting myself deadlines of how many chapters I wanted done per week, and made sure I kept to the schedule as best as I could. But when it comes to setting a schedule, you really need to be realistic. Try not to expect yourself to complete a whole pile of work you know you're not capable of doing in the timeframe, whether it's the general workload or if it's simply a busy week with other time consuming commitments.
A great way to start planning your to-dos is by making sure you have a solid idea of your weekly tasks that don't involve writing. If you're in a part-time or full-time job, you should jot down those hours and recognise that you really can't be capitalising on that time. Do you need to pick the kids up from school? If so, how long will that take you? Don't forget to set time aside for meeting up with friends, too. After everything, you might realise you only have an hour spare in the evening to actually get things done. Being meticulously realistic is how you will be able to actually conquer your short and long-term goals, leaving you to be able to continue your momentum and not burn out. Simply stated, don't plan for a five hour task to be done in one spare hour.
For the next steps, it's up to you to decide how you're most likely going to stick to your planner, rather than leaving it to go dusty in your desk draw all year long. Surprisingly, organising your time can be an enjoyable (and stress revealing) experience if you figure out what suits you best. Will colour coding motivate you? Then you better keep your gel pens and highlighters nearby. Finding your diary niche can only help you in the long run.
Other than time management - which is already such an important detail for writers - how else can diaries be of use? Well, it's as simple as plot planning. Adding notes in your daily write ups to keep key details of your story safe is a standard yet imperative thing to do, to not only help you keep consistency with character details and the story's timeline, but also for allowing opportunities to foreshadow once a first basic draft is completed. Make it easy for yourself so that you know exactly when things start to change pace in your book, and you'll be saving a lot of time.
You can also provide yourself feedback for the future. Write honest dot points about how long tasks actually took you, or how complex different parts of the publishing process actually was for you. Maybe even keep a notes section in the back with a list of contacts who you think might be advantageous to your writing endeavours in the future.
In general, if you were to take consistent diary scheduling seriously, you'd be surprised just how useful a tool it could be for you. Make sure to prep yourself with one early so that it's ready for the New Year!