As an author, carving out regular perfect moments to write may seem like a dream, and even reading the phrase “perfect moments to write” may make you LOL in a scoff. In general, life can be hectic, and 2020 has even the most focused personality types struggling to tap into that creative flow.
You may already realize the writing process isn’t linear, which can contribute to a lack of focus at times, plus you don’t always feel like writing. These challenges can feel overwhelming, especially with looming book deadlines and added pressure from your publisher to build your online presence and social media following.
The good news is within less than an hour of effort; you can set yourself up to protect your time, energy, and focus.
These tips are designed to help you develop four new habits and employ some simple automation tools to increase your output during the writing process.
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If you notice you work well under a little pressure mixed with some accountability, this tip is especially for you. I have found Trello to be the simplest and most visual project management tool, making it a favorite among those who don’t consider themselves a “techie” and only need a way to capture ideas and keep up with task deadlines.
Trello consists of three main parts:
- Boards – think of Boards as projects. You really need one board for a single book project.
- Lists – I recommend labeling these broadly in categories such as “Research and Resources,” “To-Dos,” “In Progress,” and “Completed.”
- Cards – create Cards for each specific task to be completed.
1. Capture Ideas, Track Deadlines, and Stay Organized
So much goes into writing and publishing your book and an incredible amount of your success rests on your ability as the author to manage your time and keep tabs on deadlines. In hundreds of conversations that I’ve had with business owners, authors, and leaders exploring the option to work with a virtual assistant for their business or book launch, most feel overwhelmed and disorganized. They frequently worry about how that will impact their relationships with their VA and their overall results. Sometimes they even say, “I want to be a good client,” and they admit that they may be a “hot mess.” Trello can help you be a good client for your book writing coach, your publisher, your marketing team, your virtual assistant, and anyone else that touches your project.
Research and Resources List
- Writing your book may require you to conduct interviews, research, or gather information for reference throughout the writing process. Keep track of this data on Cards in Trello by linking to articles or uploading files.
- As concepts come to mind, create a Card to capture the idea and jot down notes, upload images, and even set the due date to remind you to revisit the Card.
To-Dos, In Progress, and Completed Lists
- Document tasks and milestones such as submitting your manuscript to alpha and beta readers, give feedback on book cover designs, or write a blog post to test out material.
- Set due dates for these tasks and move them from one list to the next as you make progress.
- Invite other team members to join the Board, assign tasks to others, and communicate in the comments on individual cards.
2. Utilize Accountability and Delegation
Trello’s value multiplies when you invite others to your Board. If you are working with a book writing coach, inviting them to your Board provides a layer of accountability that helps you stay on track with deadlines and general follow-through. You can also discuss ideas and get feedback right on the Cards.
Additionally, if you are working with a virtual assistant or another team member, Trello makes it easy to delegate parts of the prep work needed for you to focus on writing.
A few tasks to consider delegating:
- Researching topic areas or historical information
- Gathering data
- Conducting interviews with subject experts or interviewing people for character development
- Creating and publishing social media content to keep your brand active online
- Creating an email newsletter to share updates on upcoming events or your latest blog post, or to drive pre-order sales
Establish Boundaries and Protect Your Time
In this new work-from-home era, the lines between work life and home life may be blurry or even non-existent in some cases. It takes some effort to protect our time, and more importantly, it takes a commitment to creating space in your day for writing.
3. Time-Block and Time-Track
I have been practicing time-blocking techniques for almost five years now, and this discipline has had a very positive impact on my productivity and focus. At first blush, a calendar with time-blocks for walking the dog, workouts, lunch breaks, and even free time may be viewed as too rigid and restricting. However, I’ve found it to be the opposite.
Blocking time for anything I want to accomplish–including leisure activities–has given me a better understanding of how I spend my time. Even improving my perception of time has reduced how much stress I feel and how much time I spend feeling overwhelmed.
- Sit down with your calendar once per week and plan the week—Block time for everything you want to accomplish, including self-care routines and free time.
- Try tracking your time using time-tracking software or a notepad. Keeping track of how you spend your time each day most likely will help you see where you are wasting too much time on unimportant activities and allow you to reallocate that time to write or do something else contributing to your goals.
4. Set Your Email Auto-Responder or Delegate Your Inbox
I have been working as a virtual assistant with the best-selling author and speaker, Jenni Schaefer, since early 2016. Jenni has released three books, and last year she signed a new book deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. While she focused on hitting her book-writing deadlines, she turned on an automatic email response letting people know that she is focusing on writing and not checking email as often. She added a line letting recipients know that if it was time-sensitive, they could email me, her assistant, instead. She equipped me with responses to common inquiries, and I touched base with her as needed with a summary of questions requiring her input. I became a buffer for Jenni, allowing her the deep focus-time to write without worrying about something important falling through the cracks.
Another option to help you block out interruptions is to delegate your inbox altogether. If you use Gmail or Outlook, it’s possible to set up a delegated inbox allowing your virtual assistant to check your email without giving over your main login information. The person you delegate can flag important messages for you, delete junk mail, and file away emails that don’t need your attention.
Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference
Habits take a little time to develop but with the systems in place to support you during the writing process, and you can focus on doing the work you love and achieve big goals. These small changes can reduce the time you spend juggling tasks or feeling buried in your inbox and give you back that time for writing instead.
We’d love for you to join the conversation! What habits help you increase your output during the writing process? What digital tools help you focus on your best work?
Amber Gray is the founder and CEO of Trusty Oak, a virtual assistant services company based in Austin, Texas. Amber is on a mission to connect driven entrepreneurs with the best virtual assistants in the United States. Trusty Oak is a reliable source of help for entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, thought leaders, and visionaries worldwide. Learn more about Amber and the Trusty Oak team at trustyoak.com.