Conquering the to-do list

How I get things done would make an interesting study … mainly in how to be a control freak.

I live by to-do lists. A clock sits next to my computer screen so I know what time it is every second. I have a calendar habit that few understand: wall calendars, day planner inserts, daily Sudoku, word of the day, 3-month, huge write-on … you name it, I have it, including some I produce in Word because I haven’t found that particular style yet.

All of this is so I can better manage my time so I can be more productive. Yes, there are benefits to slowing down, smelling the roses (or your flower of choice … actually, mine is the hyacinth), meditating, long walks in the park, whatever. I concede that point.

But for me, what works is dividing my time, listing what I need to do, and pushing myself to that accomplish it. And when I do … bring on the rewards!

2kto10kbookI’m always on the hunt for better time management tools, and I found one in a book by Rachel Aaron called “2,000 to 10,000: How to write faster, writer better, and write more of what you love.” Check out her blog post (and link to purchase her book) on the subject.

The basic premise is the triangle of writing metrics: Knowledge (know what you’re writing before you write it), Time (track productivity and evaluate), and Enthusiasm (get excited about what you’re writing).

I love the way she breaks down this concept, especially the need to track productivity and evaluate it. I’ve always called myself an early riser, more productive in the mornings. But am I sure about that? I haven’t taken the time to track when and how much I’m writing, so it’s possible that I get more done in the afternoon or evening. I’ll be doing that over the next few weeks.

Getting excited about what I’m writing is something else I need to ponder. She describes on her blog and in her book how she spent days stuck in one scene. (I know the feeling.) She said she realized that it was because the scene wasn’t interesting enough to her. The solution? Make it more interesting … or cut it. Think about it: If you’re not really into the scene, will the reader be?

The Knowledge leg of the triangle I think I already have a handle on. A huge part of my writing life is organizing and outlining, so I’m almost always aware of where the story’s going today.

I definitely think this method will work with novel writing, but I’m also revising it slightly for screenplays. With screenplays, word count isn’t what I’m after – it’s pages completed. So here’s the plan: a typical screenplay has roughly 100 pages. If I write five pages per day, I can finish a rough draft in 20 days. Time spent revising, editing, and polishing is another matter. But getting the rough draft done – or as a wise man once said, “Get the damn thing done!” – will be an accomplishment worthy of reward.