Clickety-click clickety-click clickety-click…


Uh-oh, now what?

“Yes, dear?”

“I think there is something wrong with Kira.”

Oh no, what can it be this time? Sigh…

Krazy Kira

Krazy Kira

Unfortunately, this time, the problem proved unsolvable. We have sadly lost our two dogs to cancer in as many years. For anyone who has seen Ol’ Yeller, you know the pain and grief of losing a dog. Time affects us all, both in our lives and in our work. While I bid farewell to a Krazy, but wonderful dog, I may soon welcome a new puppy into the family. So goes the chain of life.

Time is such a fitting title for this month’s blog. Stealing from one of our finest Star Trek movies, ‘Time is the fire in which we burn…‘. Because this statement is so true, we must be vigilant as writers to ensure we manage our time effectively. Let time control us, and we will watch our aspirations fade into the dust we must all eventually become.

Okay, enough melancholy, let’s get down to business. Last month, I gave you a job of listing all the tasks required to complete your writing project. This month, I wish to discuss the tools available to help you manage those tasks, thus managing time. The difference between those who succeed and those who do not is typically time management–sometimes luck plays a role, too.

You have set an appointment, you have listed the tasks that must be completed, now you need only manage these things in some product that is easy to use. Well, in today’s market of electronic gadgets, there is a plethora of tools at your disposal. I have used several, but certainly not all. In this blog, I will try my best to discuss each in turn, letting you select based on your needs and preferences. However, please note I have provided a free download of my favorite tool to use, so I am biased. More later.

Your tasks, like so many things in life, have a start, a middle, and an end to them. You would like to capture and track this aspect of your tasks using some tool. Databases, spreadsheets, task management, and time management tools abound to help you accomplish this. The challenge is finding the right tool to assist you in managing your time without taking all your time. To that end, I provide a little insight into each type of tool for you to consider.

Databases are useful and downright powerful tools to manage any sort of data. The downside is they take time to setup, have limited interfaces for using them once they are created, and tend to be a bulldozer when only a shovel was needed. However, Microsoft Access is one database that has it all in an easy to use package. It is less portable than other tools, but if you are into the geek factor, this could be a great way to manage your tasks.

Spreadsheets were once designed for nothing more than accounting tasks. Not true anymore. Now they are useful list management tools with powerful, database-like features in an easy to use and understand interface. My personal preference is Microsoft’s Excel product, and I have a template spreadsheet ready for you to use on my website (Template Spreadsheet). Feel free to use it for managing your tasks. More on this later.

Not ready to enter the world of databases and spreadsheets yet? Don’t worry, many email packages also include a task list management system in them. Microsoft Outlook is one such product that contains a task list management system within it. I actually use this at work for managing my tasks related to teaching. It is not as powerful as Excel, but has an automatic notification system that is quite nice for those of us who forget to look at our lists frequently. It requires a little computer savvy, but isn’t too difficult to customize for your writing tasks.

I realize some of you would prefer to avoid the electronic age in accomplishing such a simple task, and for you, there are still great tools available. One such tool is the DayPlanner. I prefer and have used extensively the FranklinCovey DayPlanner system with great success. If you go that route, which I do for managing appointments, you can also manage your tasks and their timelines. If you do this, get the weekly planner as that will fit your writing appointments best. If you wish to use it for more than your writing, then get the daily planner packs. Hey, no need to waste it if you can get double duty out of it!

As you can see, I use three of the tools regularly, but prefer the spreadsheet for managing my writing tasks. Not surprisingly, I also use the spreadsheet to manage sales and royalties, expenditures, marketing tasks, and contact information. It is very powerful with advanced features such as sorting, filtering, and column/row hiding, and yet, it is easy to learn and displays all your data in a single interface. Few tools can match that combination of power and ease of use.

Before you decide which tool will work best for you, research each of the different types I have outlined. Download my spreadsheet and look it over, then choose a tool that will work best for your situation. Heck, if you have an iPhone, there is probably an app for that. And if you have a Blackberry, I am pretty certain they also have an application for managing your time and tasks. I prefer electronic, but hey, I am a computer geek!

Speaking of computer geek, some of you are probably sneering at me because of the Microsoft Office products I have proposed. Look, I used to work for Microsoft, so I have a little leftover loyalty. However, if you don’t want to fork out the money or have hidden or overt hostilities towards Microsoft, I recommend checking out OpenOffice. Yes, I have used them and find them very excellent for a free product.

Next time, we will look at how we can use these tools to manage our writing tasks and our weekly appointments to write. Documenting and managing your time is an important step in pursuing your writing dreams. Do not skip or shortchange this process or your writing may not find the traction to move towards completion. Your mission before next time is to research and select one or more tools to help you manage your time!

Goodbye, Krazy Kira, you were truly loved and will be sorely missed…