As an author with a full-time job, I often struggle to find time to write in my busy schedule. When I manage set aside an hour or two to write, I need to make the most of this time and ensure I’m as productive as possible. Along the way, I’ve discovered several productivity tools that have both helped me manage my time and keep me on track during those precious writing hours. I hope you find these helpful as well!
Note that this is not the ultimate list of all productivity tools available — that would be counter-productive! These are just the ones that I use and would recommend, as they’ve made the biggest difference in my own productivity.
1. Pacemaker – for goal tracking
Easily keep track of your writing goals using Pacemaker. I LOVE this tool. You can enter your overall target word count, chapter count, page count, etc. for a project, set a deadline for that project, and see your progress over time. You can also customize your workload on specific days and dates. This way, if you want to write more on the weekends, or if you know you won’t have time to write on a particular date, Pacemaker will adjust your daily goals across the span of the project accordingly to ensure you hit your deadline. This tool is amazing!
Tip: To see how you’re progressing against your original plan, make sure to select the “I want my plan to stay the same as I work” radio button under “Managing Progress.”
2. Pomodoro – for time management
The Pomodoro Technique (which you can read more about here) is a really helpful time management method. There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
- Decide on the task you want to complete
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the timer rings
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes)
- Take a longer break (15–30 minutes) every four “pomodori” cycles
There are several apps you can use to implement the Pomodoro Technique while you write:
- Pomodoro Timer – iOS – $1.99 (image below, this is what I use)
- Pomodoro Time – iOS – Free (if you want to try a free version)
- CherryTomato – PC or OS X – Free
3. Trello – for project management
Trello can help you manage your different to-do lists in a visual way. I set up a personal Trello board to keep track of my writing and personal brand marketing activities all in one view. This not only helps me prioritize my tasks outside my day-job, but also helps me feel a sense of accomplishment when I look at my “Done” column. Here’s what my personal board looks like:
4. Anti-Social – for distraction management
If you’re like me and easily get distracted by Twitter and Facebook, you need Anti-Social. This tool makes it easy for you to block any distracting website for a set amount of time (anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours). When you set your Pomodoro timer, simply set Anti-Social for the same amount of time. It’s $15, but will make a huge difference in your productivity, and it works with both Macs and PCs.
5. Evernote – for note taking
I use Evernote to take all of my notes, for both work and my creative writing (you can create as many notebooks as you want). When I’m doing research for a new manuscript, or if I’m not at a computer and think of a line I’d love to add to my manuscript, or a plot twist I don’t want to forget, I jot it down in Evernote! I have it installed on my home computer, work computer, and my iPhone, so I can access all my notes anywhere.
6. Dropbox – for backup & easy file access
Dropbox lets you save your files from anywhere, on any device. I use Dropbox to backup all of my progress, whether I’m working with Word or Scrivener files, and it happens automatically. This way, if my home laptop ever dies, I won’t have to worry about losing any of my progress! It’s also very helpful when I have writing meetups after work — I just bring my work laptop to the cafe down the street instead of having to lug my home laptop back-and-forth each day we write together. And Dropbox automatically syncs my progress, so I can pick up where I left off as soon as I get home without having to email files to myself.
What is your favorite productivity tool? Is there something you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!
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Image via icanhascheezeburger.