Often ideas run far ahead of my bandwidth to execute—resulting in considerable disorganization that slows me even further. And because I’ve chosen to build my career around a day job rather than artistic support, time management is even more crucial.
Recently I implemented some tools that make my work easier and faster. Getting into the routine took effort, but the results have been more than worth it.
Are you ready to ramp-up your artistic organization, too, and get more done? If so, here are the tools I personally recommend.
I truly don’t know what I did without this tool. For a long time, I didn’t understand what all the hype was about. Then, thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I gave Evernote a serious try.
Once I found out that notebooks (the core content-capturing function) were stackable, I realized that I organize information exactly as I had been organizing it in folders full of WORD documents . . . except that Evernote is 1,000% (yes, four zeros!) easier to navigate. It’s tagable. Searchable. Everything is at my fingertips. And with the Clipper app, I can highlight and clip webpages DIRECTLY into Evernote with the original link. So if that bit of research or idea ever disappears from cyberspace I’ve still got it.
Recently I polled friends about their favorite to-do list app and got a variety of responses. I tried all the recommended apps and landed on ToDoist . . . largely because its color-coded system and user-friendly interface just felt “natural” for me. Now, I break creative projects into deliverables (items due on a deadline) and schedule them in ToDoist. It syncs between laptop and phone, so I can see everything at a glance, search easily, and even get updates on what’s due when. Other popular apps include WunderList, Astrid, or Asana.
No, this is not a joke. You will be far more organized in your creative work if you maintain a space dedicated to it. Even if you don’t have a room to spare, get yourself an IKEA desk and put one of those folding screens behind it, to partition it from the surrounding environment. The point is: make some kind of space for yourself to create, and to keep the artifacts (papers, doodles, or whatever) that relate to your creativity projects.
Most smart phones come equipped with these . . . but do you use them? I use my notes app to record flashes of creativity or “ah ha!” moments that occur while I’m around town or at the gym, rather than when I’m at my writing desk. Make it a habit to transfer these notes to another spot once you’re home, so you don’t lose the ideas. Or forego the notes app altogether and just record straight to Evernote.
Seriously? That’s so unartistic. Yes, seriously. It is artistic if you want to get your projects done, delivered, and seen by the world. I use Google Calendar, but iCal is popular too. If you’re working with creative collaborators, taking meetings with potential financial supporters, or just want to find time for more networking, get your life into a calendar and discipline yourself to keep it up to date. You can even add deadlines or project milestones.
Maybe typing just isn’t your thing. Maybe you’d be more organized if you talked out your thoughts? Dragon Dictation lets you do just that. Currently, I use the little voice app on my iPhone, which works for my purposes since I don’t talk things out aloud very much. I’d like to do it more, though. I hear rave reviews on Dragon from other artist friends, and it’s on my list of tools to acquire.
Yes, this is old-fashioned, but it sure is effective. Even with my ToDoist app, I still mark up a small whiteboard by my writing desk. It reminds me visually that I need to stay on task and on track. And if I really need some “dream time” uninterrupted, I turn the board over and pretend it isn’t there. Charmingly low-fi, right?
This one will help you most if you’re working in a creative team. I wasn’t introduced to the wonders of project management software until I started working in the marketing field. Check out some tools like WeDoist (which is free) and BaseCamp (which is popular and low-cost). This software allows you to manage the entire team, share work, record hours spent on a project, and otherwise stay in-sync.
That’s File Transfer Protocol — a cloud-based “space” where you can store and share large groups of password-protected files with various groups or people. I’ll be using this with an upcoming project, where I’ve amassed hundreds of research photos to show inspiration for various characters, places, and objects in the story. The file is too large to live on Google Drive (which is a good option if your project isn’t big), so I’ll probably be using Dropbox. This tool offers quite a bit of storage for free, and the cost for extra storage is reasonable.
As a writer, what’s your favorite productivity tool? Perhaps one that we haven’t covered? Share it here, and we may feature you and your tool in an upcoming post.