Friday, October 25, 2013

Getting Organized: Digital, or Paper?


Like many writers, I juggle a lot of commitments: writing organization leadership, team blogging, speaking engagements, writing deadlines, conferences and networking events. I have to pay quarterly taxes and monthly bills and juggle editing clients. Remember birthdays. And, every now and then, I squeeze in routine health appointments.

It’s a lot to keep track of, and it’s getting worse now with the increased workload demanded in advance of and surrounding my book release.

In years past, Staples has met my organizing needs. I adore office supply stores and the entire notion of getting organized—Sharpies in one of each color, please, and same with those Post-Its! I’ve looked forward with glee to purchasing and setting up my planner each year. This year, I always pledge, I’ll stay on top of things!

My chiropractor will testify that I've struggled with my system. How many times has a call from his office had to pull me from my fictive dream, twenty minutes past my appointment time, to ask that I reschedule? It’s embarrassing.

I wrote this post on Oct. 17
This past spring, my flip phone plan finally expired, I got an iPhone, and started using the digital calendar. In case anyone is even farther behind the times than I, this is Star Trek cool. Because I am a desktop/laptop Mac user as well, wherever I enter the data, it moves through “the Cloud” to my other devices. My entire schedule, in triplicate!

The best part is I can set alarms, from five minutes before to up to one week before! (You folks who have been doing this for five years now—quit laughing at me!) As long as *ahem* I remember to set the alert and keep my phone on, I have no reason to miss an appointment ever again.

With a tra-la-la, I skipped my annual trip to purchase a planner at the office supply store.

Three weeks later, with months of planning stored in the cell phone for pre-release events, I (stereotypically) dropped my cell phone in the toilet.

It was only there three seconds, tops. The water was clean. I dried it immediately. I couldn’t turn it off right away because with a previous tra-la-la I’d already ditched my landline. This was my only phone, and I had long meetings scheduled that day with my agent and an editing client. But the second I was done talking with them I popped the simm card and put the phone in a bag of rice (warning: not all techies consider this a valid fix, but I thought it was worth trying).

Then waited. Seven. Long. Days.

I was greatly relieved when it turned back on. The calendar items were on my desktop, sure, but I can’t carry that around all day to remind me of things. So I flipped to the iPhone calendar, eager to be reunited—

Gone.

Okay, not permanently gone. My Apple geek son, a firm believer in the invisible Cloud, helped me restore it. But it scared me into a new method of organizing.

Every muscle in my body relaxed the second those red automatic doors slid open, welcoming me back into the world that had never let me down. After an hour of perusing every single planner (such decisions cannot be rushed!) I now own a paper monthly version with room for notes. I am so happy to be reunited with the stretch of boxes that allows me to see my commitments over time, so I can plan accordingly. That was hard to do on the iPhone, which lets you see a week at a time, but only if you scroll.

Combined with my restored iPhone to send me reminders, I think I’ve finally hit on a perfect system for me. (And my chiropractor.) And should more frightening waters ever permanently claim my iPhone, and aliens with their evil magnets destroy the Cloud, I’ll always have my trusty paper planner as a backup.

And I won’t have to give up my office supply store addiction. Sharpies, anyone?

How do you stay on top of the multiple demands of a writer’s life? Let’s get organized.



Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation service. Her work, which explores beauty and meaning at the edge of darkness, is represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks, January 28, 2014. It is now available for pre-order. Her monthly series, "Turning Whine into Gold," appears at Writers in the StormConnect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

14 comments :

  1. You should consider connecting your phone calendar to Google Calendar or, if you use Outlook (as I do all the time), to a service such as Microsoft Office 365 (which costs only a few $ each month). That way, you can synchronize your phone calendar with the calendar you use on your computer and if you ever lose your phone you can still access your calendar from your computer. It's backup protection that's worthwhile....

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    1. Thanks Mark! I'm a Mac user so it was backed up onto my desktop through the cloud. I didn't lose anything. But it sure helps me to see a two-page spread of where I'm heading—then the alerts from the phone are more like reminders and less like accusations. ;)

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    2. I hate Google docs, calendar, etc. and simply can't function without my paper desk calendar. It's not even worth trying to change habits this old. Better things to do!

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  2. Oh, my goodness, Kathryn, so much stress! This is a reminder of why I have resisted embracing the world of technology with open arms. I'm a dinosaur who writes appointments, deadlines, and other vital information on a calendar next to my computer. Alas, I am likely to remain in limbo between the worlds of yesterday and today (I won't even think about tomorrow!). Having said that, I think you have a great backup system—one of them after my own heart. :-)

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    1. Linda, I do believe that writing with one's own hand—as opposed to typing or "tapping" onto a phone—helps to burn the commitment into memory. You may not remember what it says, but at least you remember the act of writing it, and can go look it up!

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  3. I consider myself moderately computer literate. That said, I recently received a Windows 8 phone with a diabetes app. Since I still have a landline, the poor wee bugger is rarely turned on. I rely on a paper calendar which I enjoy designing and printing. My contacts are on an Excel spreadsheet, but I keep a copy printed out. As much as I love the productivity factor, I hate the way people have become slaves to technology. It's like watching a dealer hooking a junkie then controlling the supply and price as the junkie grows desperate. We are encouraged to structure our entire lives around the Cloud. We have to continuously purchase their products and pay to store and access our data.I appreciate the convenience, but rebel against the dependence.

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    1. Diana, I hear you. It's like the Kindle: I own the books, but they'll keep them in their library, thank you.

      I do love the electronic reminders, but the paper planner keeps me sane.

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  4. I feel you. Not enough hours in a day. Hard to know where to start. It will be worth it in the end.

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    1. Thanks Regge: so true. I read a post today that said in order to take something new on you must rid your life of something old. That can't happen yet, so the schedule swells...

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  5. You know how I avoid missing appointments, Kathryn ... I don't make any. Okay, I'm poor and lonely ... but I never miss an appointment.

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  6. Christopher, I see the logic, and the key to your unfaltering, I-can-do-no-wrong persona! I may have to give it a try...

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  7. Kathryn, I'm like you. I really do like that big calendar on my desk that has the squares I can write in with my pen. My kids have tried all kinds of enticements to get me to go paperless, but this is what I am used to and comfortable with. I don't think it is an age thing. Some of my friends who are my age or older are embracing electronic calendars and note-keeping. It's just not for me. Reaching for the pen and paper to make a note is second nature to me. And when I have to take my computer tower in for any kind of work, I have to take all the sticky-notes off that remind me of upcoming appointments. :-)

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    1. Oh my gosh Maryann, my worst habit is writing things down on whatever piece of paper is lying around. I tried keep a spiral notebook so at least it would all be in one place, which worked but I abandoned it. I need to go back—those pieces of paper will drive you nuts, sticky or not! The planner I got does have pages between the months for note-taking—I'll do it there.

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  8. I'm firmly entrenched with my iPhone / Macbook Pro / iPad system, and I've backed up to the cloud since they offered that option. Nevertheless, I have more than once had to scramble to figure out why some dates mysteriously disappeared while others I thought I'd deleted suddenly show up! Still don't understand why, so I've taken to trying to remember to print out my current calendar about once a week so in case anything gets lost, it'll never be more than a week's worth of dates to reconstruct. Of course, since I started doing that, no more mysterious disappearances/reappearances. Maybe that's what it takes to keep them away. But I can't imagine ever going back to the all-paper method. I, like you, ALWAYS missed so much stuff that way.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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