Death-defying organizational feats of motherhood (and writing)

While working for a national non-profit organization and managing 500 (mostly) women, I quickly learned to get my to-do list whittled down to something manageable else I’d get overwhelmed and hide behind the copy machine.

My trick was simple: pick the one most death-defying feat of the day and crank it out without succumbing to the lure of email, chatting with my cube neighbor, or that blinking voicemail light of doom. This was far before the Cone of Silence headphones so it wasn’t easy in a busy office but knocking off the big thing for the day helped me shake my bad thang at the rest of the list.

Now that I’m writing full-time, the list is back in play but in a new format: Google calendar. I have five color-coded calendars stacked on top of each other in the browser plus a task manager in the sidebar to keep me on track. Family, scouts, summer camp director, writing deadlines and the editing schedule for An Army of Ermas all cheerfully litter my screen. It’s a rainbow of OCD. I also have a pink board with upcoming project deadlines and I think that’s a petrified cookie propped up on my printer. Please, god, don’t tell me I put that cookie there as an incentive. I’m doomed.

I’ll gloss over the huge family calendar plastered over the kitchen table for five kids to add their activities to (copied then to my Google calendar) and my iPhone calendar that freaks out and beeps if it thinks I’ve missed something at 4am, waking the dogs and making my husband believe it’s time to get up and make me coffee (win!).

Right now I’m plotting a short story on a yellow legal pad though it will soon move to FreeMind (mind mapping software) once I get the rough ideas down. If it’s too big, that idea will move to the 8ft blackboard so I can better organize the flow. Yes, I know it’s only 5000 words. Can you imagine me as a novelist?

So what are your organizational tips, Cha-Cha?


  1. Learn to juggle?

    That's all I can come up with. Spreadsheets and calendars scare me to the point of mental freeze-up. Coming to terms with that (because if I don't, the blb authors might stop being lovely and lynch me).

  2. You're one of the busiest writer/mamas I know. I'll help you with the calendars (I forgot to add my spreadsheets in the column!), so they put down the pitchforks. ;)

  3. Wall calendar, Google calendar, and a notebook with the list of duties for the day. I put stars next to the top three things to get done, but usually there is a total of 10 items. This month 'writing 1200' gets a star every day. :) I haz a jealous of your blackboard.

  4. I am horrible about organizing my time. I am desperately trying to get better. Now that hubs isn't self-employed and has actual hours (read hopefully no more clients calling at noon on THANKSGIVING) I am hoping we can get more organized! First step: family calendar!

    I am also a huge daily list maker.

    I am scarily unstructured about writing. I tend to just let things sit in my brain and percolate. Working on that too. . . going to check out Free Mind, sounds awesome!

  5. Calendars are amazing! I don't know how I remembered anything without Google; my memory is shot so this is the only thing that gets me where I need to be without assistance from the nice man that lives with me.

  6. I have to do lists at home and at work, plus various lists on my phone. I also resort to stickies for things that MUST be done.