As I think my regular readers have figured out, I’ve recently been fooling around with a lot of software recently—organizers, to do lists, and calendar apps—all in an effort to organize my life and my writing. And then my daughter, who has begun proofreading professionally, floored me with the most simple question: “How do I prioritize all I’ve got to do?”

Well, there isn’t an app for that.

No one can really tell you how to prioritize. I told her how I decide what to work on—formatting and editing for half the day, my own writing for the other half (usually in that order, although recently I’ve been switching it around and writing in the morning). But I like variety. I get bored if I work on one thing for too long—unless I’m reading and editing the most exciting book then I’ll completely lose track of time and go on for hours.

My daughter, on the other hand, told me that she likes to “get into the zone” when she’s working. She’d rather work on one task all day and just lose herself in that. So, my trick didn’t work for her. The best suggestion I could come up with was for her to work on each of her projects, one a day, and rotate them so that each time she went back to one she would do so with fresh eyes (and she wouldn’t get bored).

But my daughter and I are lucky that we don’t have small children to worry about. We don’t have outside work or other responsibilities calling us away from what we need to do. We only have each other (we live together) and my husband (who does appreciate dinner on the table when he comes home from work). Many other authors have an outside job to pay the bills (because goodness knows books sales won’t cut it unless you are in the top 5% of authors for whom they do). Children are demanding little creatures who (rightfully so) expect you to drop everything and attend to their needs. If you’ve got little ones, they may not be able to wait until you’ve finished work/writing this sentence/get to the end of the chapter.

So, how do you manage? How do you prioritize?

What I did when my children were very young, they came first and then my writing and other work had to arranged around them and their needs (needs include not just feeding and bathing, but playing and reading as well). When they got older and learned how to be a little more patient, I could tell them that I was working and schedule my day in blocks of time: morning for editing, early afternoon for writing, a break for when the kids got home and wanted to tell me all about their day, and then back to writing until I heard cries of “I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?” I would then pull myself away and feed the monsters, er, I mean, darling children. My evenings were always set aside for my husband—talking, watching tv, and snuggling (important things that keep a marriage happy).

I prioritize the work I do for other authors above my own. I work on multiple projects at once—if I have more than one editing or formatting job at a time, creating blocks of time for each through the morning and early afternoon, if necessary. Once my conscience is satisfied that I’ve spent a necessary amount of time on that work, my mind is clear to focus in on my own writing.

The thing I’ve learned trying out all of these different organization software is that it is, for the most part, unnecessary. So long as I have a list of what I need to get done (easily written by hand in my planner and on a little white-board easel that sits in front of me), I can usually get everything done. I’m still toying with some organizational pieces of software to hold and organize both my research and all of the articles and blog posts I will read—someday. At the moment, I’m trying one that has AI integration so I don’t have to go searching for what I want but can ask it to do that for me (it’s called Mem, in case you’re interested – I haven’t used it enough to recommend it or not).

Organization, prioritizing—these are vital to getting stuff done (which I’ve recently learned is actually a “thing” called GSD). In today’s world where we are all called upon to do so much more than just a 9-5, you need to know how you work best and what tools you’ll need to get it done. Good luck!