10 Tips to Help Writers Get Organized
I’ll be honest—I’m naturally super organized. I’ve always been this way, even as a kid. I had lists ready for every occasion, my closet was color-coded, my stationery collection was perfectly arranged and each day was expertly planned with play dates, soccer practice and homework.
As I brought my ultra-organization into academia and the workforce, it didn’t take long to realize that not everyone is as neurotic excited about structure as I am. And even at a huge company like Wix, full of ambition and talent, organization can sometimes take the backseat.
While our laid-back startup culture full of dogs, hallway meetings and free beer is beyond awesome, it can also be a bit messy. We’ve all (myself included) been guilty of missed deadlines, forgotten tasks, ignored meetings and more just because we didn’t take the time to get our sh*t organized.
I’m a bit biased, as you can probably tell, but I believe the benefits of being organized are endless. It clears your mind, increases productivity, decreases stress, boosts creativity and so much more. As writers, organization is even more important because it’s our job to ensure that Wix is intuitive and easy to use. If we’re not organized, our writing won’t be either and we stand the risk of confusing our users.
So whether your focus is content writing, UX writing, marketing writing or something else, these organizational tips can help you reach the perfectly arranged paradise you’ve been dreaming of.
Follow the 5-minute rule
Make a to-do list
Make a follow-up list
Write it down
Create schedules & deadlines
Mindfully manage your time
Declutter physical and digital spaces
Schedule in breaks
Find what works for you
01. Follow the 5-minute rule
If a task will take 5 minutes or less, do it now. Like RIGHT NOW. Don’t bother adding it to your to-do list (if you don’t have one, see #2) and don’t believe you’ll remember it later (see #4). This is especially useful when someone asks for quick feedback, an easy deliverable or just a favor. If you can do it on the spot in 5 minutes or less, they’ll be eternally grateful and so will your future self.
02. Make a to-do list
This may seem obvious, but it’s crucial. To-do lists keep us focused and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Whether it’s Trello, Google Keep or good ol’ pen and paper, try different mediums until you find what works for you. I personally love Mac Notes since it’s simple, easy to update and accessible on my phone. I use color-coding (shocker, I know) to differentiate between categories like Today and This Week, and I like to bold whatever task I’m doing at that very moment.
03. Make a follow-up list
As part of your to-do list, create a follow-up list. AKA, the nagging list. Add all the things you’re waiting on from someone else, including appropriate times when you can gently nudge them. Most of us don’t work in a bubble—it’s more like a game of tennis, where we are constantly hitting balls back and forth among our colleagues. And your top priority may not be someone else’s, meaning balls can easily be forgotten. So make a note to follow up and don’t be ashamed to do so!
04. Write it down
We’re writers, so this one should be easy! Assume that you won’t remember it later, so write it down. Between emails, chats, meetings, coffee catch-ups, Slack, Trello and more, we’re constantly bombarded with new information and it’s easy for something to get lost along the way. If you hear about something you need to handle, make it a point to write it down. Even better, add it to your shiny new to-do list.
05. Be proactive
Come to meetings with ideas, look out for potential conflicts and volunteer to get things done. In addition to putting you ahead of the game with your own projects, it can also open the door to new ones. As a key Wix value, we’re encouraged to be proactive both in our roles and as members of larger teams. Some of the best products, features and even company perks here at Wix began when one employee dared to dream big.
06. Create schedules & deadlines
Professional writing projects come in all shapes and sizes and some of them don’t have schedules or specific deadlines. Since writing and editing can be endless (calling all perfectionists), sometimes we need to set boundaries ourselves. I’ve found this especially helpful with longer pieces, which I have a tendency to procrastinate on until right before a deadline. I don’t have to tell you that it never feels great to fall behind on our work, and smart scheduling is the best solution.
07. Mindfully manage your time
Time management for writers is incredibly important—and bringing mindfulness into the picture can make a real difference. Take note of and embrace what works best for you and intentionally create those environments and situations. Maybe it’s writing first thing in the morning, blocking specific time for projects or recognizing that you aren’t so savvy at context switching and adjusting your schedule accordingly. Combining mindfulness with key time management strategies creates a personalized plan for your top productivity.
08. Declutter physical and digital spaces
Our environments, both physical and digital, can have a huge impact on focus and creativity. An organized work space can go a long way in helping a writer stay on-task. It can also help keep those creative juices flowing, no small matter when writer’s block is such a terribly real thing. Is your computer desktop full of docs and gifs? Take 10 minutes to categorize them into folders. Is your actual desk full of stickies and random chachkis? Take 5 minutes to arrange or toss things out. A few minutes can make a big difference.
09. Schedule in breaks
If you’re still reading (hi!) and now have a burst of motivation to get organized and be super productive, keep in mind one necessary tip: schedule in breaks. Staring at a computer all day not only causes known health issues, it can also turn writing into a painful experience. Step away from the glowing screen every now and again to keep fresh eyes on your work and stay energized. Chance are you will get more done in the same amount of time.
10. Find what works for you
Everyone is different, which means everyone has different organization techniques that work best for them. Keep trying until you find what works for you! At the end of the day, being organized is about being the person others can rely on, which makes you the best kind of colleague and manager. This can boost you as a professional, push your career forward and open doors to new opportunities. Don’t underestimate the power of organization—even if it’s just a little color-coding.
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Maggie Schoonmaker, Content Writer & Strategist at Wix