Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Mobile Author, Part Three: Managing Your Project

Once your work space is organized, you'll want to organize your work life and your projects.

It helps to think of a writing project as a job. Not the boring 9 to 5 kind, but rather a totally awesome job with the hours that work best for me. And, being a mobile author means I can write wherever I want to. I can write in an office or den if I want to, and that's often the best place to do it. But, if I want to, I can also go to a cafe or coffee shop, or I can work from a hotel room, or on the plane, or a train. I'm mobile; I can do what I want.

A calendar, a notebook, and a task manager should give you everything you need to stay on track.

Wunderlist task manager app


If you treat writing as a job, you'll want at least the basic organization tools. A good calendar is a must.

There are many calendar apps, many of them free. You might be happy with the one that came on your phone or tablet, or you might want to experiment a little with other apps until you find one you like better. As always, check reviews and feature lists to make sure the calendar you choose is going to work for you.You'll want to make sure your calendar can sync with the calendar for your day job, if you have one. You'll also want it to sync with your personal calendar, like a Google calendar or iCal.

Use your calendar to schedule deadlines, even if those deadlines are no more than personal goals. You can also use it to remind you of local writing events, conferences, signings, and presentations. If you are in a writing group, you might use your calendar to keep track of your group meetings, with reminders to prepare your chapter for critiquing. A shared calendar, like a Google calendar, used by all members of your group, is perfect.


You're also going to want a good notebook. My definition of a good notebook is one that you like to use so much that you actually do.

For me, that means having the ability to keep multiple notebooks so I can place certain types of notes in the right notebook. It also means being able to search the notes so I can find what I want. Finally, I prefer a notebook that syncs across devices without me having to remember to copy my notes. Or having to remember to do anything at all, really.

I find it useful to keep two kinds of notebooks, a fancy robust one for serious note keeping and a lighter notebook for quick notes. Kind of like a composition book and a stack of stickies.

One of the most popular apps in all of appdom is Evernote. Evernote is one of those rare apps that has the ability to be almost everything for almost everybody. You can store ideas and notes, write a whole scene, store photos, record voice notes, draw diagrams--you name it, you can do it in Evernote. Evernote lets you create your own organization style, with notebooks for each project, for your ideas, or whatever you need your organizational style to be to actually stick with it. And of course, everything you put into Evernote is automatically available everywhere you have the app, as well as on the computer in your home office. You can put an icon or widget on your device for easy access. And it's available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac. And it's free, although you can also pay for additional features and more storage space. You want this app.

If you have a recent version of  Microsoft Office, you likely have Microsoft OneNote, which is very similar to Evernote. I use both, although I tend to use OneNote more for my day job. If you have it, use it. It works well, and has a handy app for most major devices.

There are many other note apps, so if you want to try another one, check out your app store. You might want something that looks more like a paper notepad, for example. Many notebook apps let you save to Dropbox or Google Drive so your notes are available wherever you need them.

In addition to a robust notebook, I like having a second app for quick notes. Although you can use Evernote or OneNote, I find it convenient to use a smaller notebook. The iPad and iPhone come with a good note pad, but Android somehow neglected to add one. The recently released Google Keep fills that hole. I use Keep for short reminders, pictures, or short voice notes. Notes are stored on Google Drive, and are synced with any device where I've installed the app. It can't compare to Evernote or OneNote for sheer awesomeness, but it's a good part of my mobile writing toolkit, and it's a perfect app for that smart phone you always have with you.

Just remember the number one requirement that I mentioned above: a good notebook is one you like to use so much that you actually use it.

Task Manager

The third app you'll want is a good task manager. You could use your notes app for tracking tasks. Evernote and Google Keep are both good for checklists of tasks.

The best task managers, though, give you more than a checklist. The ideal task manager lets you create and track subtasks, the many little tasks that need to be done to complete a larger task. It also syncs with your calendar. Of course, it goes without saying that you can access your lists from anywhere and from any device. And, it's a joy to use, so you'll use it.

Two of the most popular task managers that meet my criteria, both available for Android and iOS, are Wunderlist and Any.Do. Both are free.There are many others, so find the one that does what you need.

For a task manager that goes beyond to-do-lists, especially if you are visually oriented, you might try Trello, which I've recently discovered. Think of it as a bulletin board (or as many bulletin boards as you need) where you can pin cards for each task or group of tasks, and move the cards around as you work on them. For example, if a card is in your to-do stack, you can move it to your Doing stack while working on it, and when you finish that task, you can move the card to your Done stack. If you are collaborating with another author or an illustrator, or want to review your plans with your writing group, Trello includes collaboration features that let you share and work on your boards with others. Trello works on pretty much anything, either through the mobile app or a web browser. You'll see this app mentioned more than once in this series.

By the way, your smart phone is a great place to keep your task manager. Most task managers don't require a large screen, and you probably have your phone with you all the time.

Next Step

Now that your portable office is ready and you're set up to manage your projects, you can start to plan your story. Come back next week to find out how to use your mobile device as a convenient story planning tool.

The Mobile Author, Part Four: Planning Your Story
The Mobile Author, Part Five: Writing
The Mobile Author, Part Six: Submissions
The Mobile Author, Part Seven: Managing Your Writing Life

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