Tip of the Week: Project Management for Writers

My dear fellow writers, I have a confession. It comes in the form of a juggling metaphor. I'm not apologizing for that.

I have a tendency to throw several balls into the air at a time, and then to get really interested and focused on just one of the balls, at which point other balls crash down on my head. (Please know that, if I'm editing your work, your work is the ball that gets all my focus. I will dream about your writing, I will mutter about it to myself when I take walks, and I will think about it while I'm doing dishes. Your work doesn't crash on my head; it's my personal side projects that fall suddenly on me.)

The rest of the industrialized world (especially profitable businesses) have tools for this ball-juggling-and-crashing problem, and they are called tools for project management. Project management often involves budgets, deadlines, owning processes, managing teams of people, forecasting output, and optimizing efficiency. That's all great, but how does that help you or me as writers? 

Free project management tools exist, because of the needs of these businesses, and we can use them to help get our beautiful ideas into the world.

Trello is my current favorite project management tool. It is free. I keep a board for each editing client and each personal project of mine, so I have one place I can go to see all details related to one project ... or one ball. And all the other balls. And design checklists with deadlines for each component of each project. And I can color-code cards, and archive cards, and ... it is making my work life and creative life balance go much more smoothly than in the past. I'm a fan.

I currently have a board that is only for my distant, dream-like thoughts on academic articles I might someday write. One of my lists is titled "gender bias across citation style guides"; another is titled "trauma theory and trauma studies." On my "trauma theory" list, I make one card per journal article or website that I come across, find interesting, and want to remember. On the back of the card, I list a web address and citation information. This way, I'll never lose track of the World Psychiatry article I read today about the long-term costs of traumatic stress on the body.

Of course, any project management tool is only as good as it fits your style, and your work flow, and only as long as it doesn't take away time from actually working on the project that you want to manage. So, give it a try, but if it doesn't just fit in your brain, quit it and move on. Try Evernote, try keeping everything in Google Drive as a rambling document, or use Post It notes stuck to your computer. Whatever works for you is good. 

So, tip of the week: Try a project management tool like Trello to keep track of your current project and distant projects. See if you like it. And quit it if you don't.