A Writer’s Best Tools

I need a lot of focus to succeed as a writer, a content marketer, a guest blogger and all those other hats I wear on a daily basis. And I’m not a very focused person. So I need a few tools to succeed as a writer.

secret of my success to do list

When the third person this week asked me how I get everything done that I do on a daily basis, I knew it was time to fess up. I need to tell what tools I’m using to help me get through my day without losing my mind or the contracts I have with clients.

Now I have to tell you that I’m a bit of a scatterbrain. I can’t stay focused on one thing for an extended period of time. I lose focus and before long I’m busy fiddling with everything but work.

That’s why I do so many different things. At the moment I’m writing a novel, starting a new membership website for writers, doing the SEO for various company websites, freelancing as a content writer, doing some guest blogging and doing online networking for a recruiter.

I need to fill my day with a variety of things while being able to focus on each task at hand.

A writer’s best tools are sometimes not so obvious

The obvious tools I have are of course my laptop, a notebook and my voice recognition software (which I rarely use because it doesn’t quite understand my Afrikaans Aussie accent!). But when it comes to a writer’s best tools, I have three very valuable ones without which I can’t get through the day.

Google Calendar

My Google Calendar is always open on my laptop. On there I have a to-do-list that keeps me on track.

It often happens that, while I’m doing one thing, I will think of a great article for a blog post or some way in which I can better the SEO on a client’s website. When this happens, I quickly click on the calendar and just type in the idea I had in the corresponding space. The times I haven’t done this, I would later sit, trying to remember what on earth my great idea was.

When I have a meeting, a family birthday or some other event that needs to be on the calendar, I just slot it in and move the rest of my list up to make space for whatever is happening.

I love the reminders Google Calendar has built in there. It can be set to either send me an e-mail or to send a message to my phone. When I have an important deadline looming, I may set it to send me a reminder the day before. If it’s a meeting I have to attend, I may have it send an e-mail reminder the previous day so I can prepare for the meeting and a reminder to my phone about an hour or so before the actual meeting. Without that final reminder, I have been known to get lost in my writing and completely miss important meetings!

Every kind of task on my calendar is marked in a different colour. It makes it easy to spot what work I have to do that day. And the line that moves down during the day really gives me a feeling of accomplishment as I see it passing across every task as I get it done.

My Buffer App

We all know that from a marketing point of view, it’s very important that we stay in touch on social media. For this reason, I believe the Buffer App is an absolute indispensable tool.

There is a free version which allows you to schedule a limited number of posts ahead of time. For around $10 a month you are able to schedule an unlimited number of posts to as many as 12 different platforms.

Buffer allows me to show my face on social media at different times of the day, even when I’m not online.

How does it work? I take an hour each day for social media and to catch up on some reading and my e-mails. As I see articles I think some of my followers will be interested in, I just buffer it. It then goes live on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or whichever platform I scheduled it for. Some articles I may even put on more than one platform. This allows me the freedom to tweet and post articles at different times of the day, without having to keep returning to my social media pages. In this way I can concentrate on my other work while my buffer is ‘communicating’ on my behalf.

Another great feature of Buffer is the analytics. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t want to know how their posts on social media are doing?

My Desktop Timer

Especially when I’m writing, I tend to lose track of time. One afternoon a friend called and while trying to run to the phone, my legs gave way under me. I then realized that I had been writing for almost 5 hours without getting up once and both my legs had fallen asleep.

We all know that it’s unhealthy to sit for such long periods. But as a writer, how do you remind yourself to get up every once in a while?

I believe the writer’s best tool in this case is a simple reminder that time has passed and it’s time to stretch those legs and get a drink of water. I have an online timer downloaded to my laptop. It is set to go off after 50 minutes. I have it in a small floating window on my laptop and the alarm is set to the beautiful sound of birds singing.

When I’m doing something I’m not enjoying, a quick glance at the timer shows me how time has passed and I’m motivated to continue for a few more minutes. When I’m working on an article or some other writing, it reminds me to hurry up because in a few minutes I need to move on to the next task at hand.

After the 50 minutes have passed, I get up for a few minutes. During this time I have a drink of water, go outside to the lake or even make a quick phone call to a friend. But I make sure not to stretch this time out longer than 10 minutes.

When I then get back to my laptop, I’m refreshed, I check my calendar to see what my next task is and I set my timer for my next 50 minute session.

I know that every writer has his or her best tools that they depend on. Which are your writer’s best tools?

About Elmarie

Elmarie Porthouse is a freelance writer who specializes in ghost-writing content for websites. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
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6 Responses to A Writer’s Best Tools

  1. I am especially in love with the online timer to remind you it’s time to move around! I have a bad habit of looking up and realizing I’ve been sitting in the same position for three hours straight…especially when a deadline looms. I definitely am going to explore this suggestion.
    Calendars are a bit trickier for me. After the brain injury a family member who thought they were helping plastered post-it notes throughout the house…Notes to remind me to “go to the bathroom” (How humiliating!). There were notes to remind me to feed the children. Problem was, with short-term memory loss, you can read the same note every 15 minutes and repeat your actions over and over. I have a reluctance to make lists as a result of those years after the accident. I know it’s important. It’s an emotional roadblock I need to get beyond.

    • Elmarie says:

      If I went through an experience like you have, I probably wouldn’t even want to have a grocery list around me, let alone a list telling me what to do when!
      Some days I get lazy and feel like throwing my Google Calendar in the lake. But later when I realize how much I got done in a day and clients are happy when I complete projects ahead of time, I know why I have to stick to it.
      You do whatever works for you. You don’t need a calendar, you have your editor to keep you on your toes 🙂

  2. Thanks for your tips – valuable. I struggle with all the technology but know I need to get ‘with-it’ (not withered!) I love when I have accomplished a lot in one day. All the best…

  3. John Arnott says:

    Thank you for the great article. Reading articles like these give me great insight to what other authors are doing out there when they are creating their masterpieces.
    I wrote my first book last year and I found it very difficult to write when another medium was on such as music or a TV. I even had this fantasy of going into a coffee house and writing, incorporating the people that I saw into my story. Like I said, it was a fantasy. I couldn’t even think with so many people interacting with each other in the coffee house. So it’s safe to say that I write exclusively at home, with little or no noise whatsoever, and that seems to work for me.
    The idea of having a timer, I thought, was a great idea. Sometimes I do have a penchant for sitting for long periods of time, but my stomach seems to have no problem telling me when I need to get up.

    • Elmarie says:

      John, I often tell other writers to go write in coffee shops. However, like you, I can’t really sit and write with so much going on around me. But sometimes I do need to get out of the house. At first I would haul my laptop (which is rather heavy with charger and everything in it!) to a coffee shop or even a park and write there. But then I realized I was just wasting time. Now, on my ‘away days’, I take my phone. Then, while I’m having a bit to eat, taking a walk or just browsing through stores, I record anything that comes to mind as voice notes. Later, when I listen to them, I jot them down and sometimes come up with at least 3 or 4 great articles. So I get out but at least I don’t feel like the day is a complete loss.
      Good luck with your writing. Now go stretch those legs!

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