Whether you work on school papers, blog posts, or book drafts, organizing your content can be a challenge. Keeping track of materials, ideas, and your process is a hassle. Luckily, there are measures you can take to organize your work. In this article, I will provide you with some tips on how to organize your work. I will give you some general guidelines and links to some tools.
So, whether you are an aspiring writer or a college student, this article will give you the tools you need to organize your thoughts. You will be able to cut off several hours of work and focus on your principal task: to write compelling content.
The easiest way to organize your work is to keep a clean dashboard. Whether you are writing a fictive vampire-romance novel or doing a college paper on Roman architecture, you need to know where to find your documents. There is nothing more aggravating than having to search through your entire hard drive to find that one outline you wrote three weeks ago. So, clean up your dashboard, label your folders and rename your files.
Let us take an example. Imagine you are writing a research paper on the history of Rome. You have not cleaned your dashboard or labeled any of your files, and your deadline is in 24 hours. You desperately need to find a specific document on Romulus and Remus that you read two months ago.
Maybe you have not even arranged your files, and they are all floating in a random folder.
How long do you imagine this will take you? My humble guess is around 15 minutes. That is 15 minutes you could have spent writing your paper!
Now, look at this dashboard.
And this folder:
These files are named to suit the topic. So, even if your folder is disorganized, you could search for “Romulus”, and the file would show up immediately.
Organizing your work with tools
The internet is full of brilliant tools that help you focus on your writing rather than finding your sources. Some of them cost a bit, but most are free to use. Most tools, however, require you to sign up. Here are some of my favorite software that has helped me numerous times.
Google Sheets provide a tool that is invaluable when doing large projects. You can write down your deadlines and goals and keep track of them anywhere you go. It is free. It is easy to create a project outline and keep it updated because you have access to it at all times. The only downside to Google Sheets is that you must manually update your document. But if you can live with this, I suggest giving Google Sheets a try.
Mindmaps are always great to organizing your work and keep track of all of your thoughts. It is great to see all your musings connected if you are a visual thinker like me. Mindmaps also provide a terrific tool for sorting out the bad ideas, as you will be able to see which topics or facts do not correlate to your main argument.
Pacemaker is a great organizing tool for your writing process. It allows you to record your daily amount of writing and set goals. If you know you are writing a 2000 words article, you can view your progress with Pacemaker. You can edit plans to suit your projects, and you do not have to sign up for anything. If you are a bit competitive like me, Pacemaker is great to set daily goals and try and beat them.
When I was a student, I frequently used templates like on controlaltachieve.com. They are great ways of developing ideas and, like the mindmaps, allow you to visualize your work. Often at the beginning of a project, I have too many ideas. Most of them have nothing to do with my actual paper, but some of them might be equally good. If you use a template to write down your ideas, you can keep organizing your work, and sort out a better plan to ensure you write the best content possible. It also comes with the perk that you will have already developed outlines for new potential projects, which could turn into an article later.
Organizing your work with calendars
Deadlines are one of the most important – and frustrating – elements of writing. They stress you out and force you to make mistakes. If you plan and set realistic goals throughout your writing process, deadlines become less frightening and organizing your work becomes easier.
I always overload myself with deadlines. I would much rather have too many deadlines than none at all. Most of them have nothing to do with my actual assignment but are merely reminders to myself. I will set deadlines for the overall project and deadlines for parts of the project, and this always helps me keep calm and avoid stress.
Some examples of deadlines:
- Delivery of article
- When outlining has to be done
- Deadlines for finishing research
- When I have to begin writing
- How many words do I have to write per day
- When the first draft has to be completed.
- How long to do the first review
- When the second draft needs to be finished.
- How long to do the second review.
- When to finish formatting.
That is ten deadlines for a simple article of about 2000 words. While it is a long-form informative article, I could probably write this in a day.
So why use so many deadlines? To be alert. It is imperative when a deadline approaches. I do not want to fiddle with structuring the article or finding research to back up my arguments while stressing over a deadline. I know exactly when to finish a specific part of my writing process with these deadlines. It does not matter whether I manage to complete the tasks on time or not. The goal is merely to try and finish each part in time. This way, I will have plenty of time to edit the article and have it ready for delivery on the agreed deadline.
Organizing your work with alarms
Alarms are a lifesaver, just like calendars. When you struggle with multiple (external) deadlines, it can be overwhelming and cause a writer blockade. There is nothing worse than staring at a blank document for hours. You get grumpy, and it might even affect your personal life.
To avoid running out of inspiration, I recommend writing in intervals. Almost every guide recommends this, and it is because it is very effective.
Set your alarm to 30 minutes writing and 5 minutes break – or whatever interval that suits you. It will keep you alert and force you to be productive when working.
While it is not organizing advice per se, it makes your daily writing more disciplined. It also helps you have free time during the day, ensuring you will have time for family and friends.
Another way of organizing your time is to set up your deadlines as alarms. If you know that your article has to be completed within one day, you might gain a lot of time by structuring your time around your deadlines. For example, you could set your research to be concluded within one hour and the first paragraph within 20 minutes. It will create a better structure for your writing and make it more effective. It is much easier to finish when you recognize that you have 20 minutes to write a paragraph.
The internet has several great tools like Google Sheets, templates, calendars, and simple alarms. They can all help you organizing your work process. Each will make your writing process easier and keep a clean structure on your project. Likewise, it is imperative to keep your dashboard and folders clean. It will ensure you do not lose your way when trying to find that one specific source you need.
If you wish to learn more about writing, I suggest your read my article on focused writing here.
And please let me know your thoughts on this! What tips do you have?