I’m not so interested in displaying my private life on this particular blog, as you might have guessed. I have other blogs for that. I figure you’re more interested in learning to write better or in some other aspect of being a writer if you’re here, or you’re one of my friends stopping by, or both. But I do a lot, and one of my friends asked me how. Which might pertain to writing.

I’m not the most organized person in the world. I never realized being the stay-at-home parent was so much work. This is the way the spouse and I are able to make our personal dreams happen, and we’re happy with the way things are going. But it was a shock when I started this seven years ago. People are not happy if you don’t do what you said you would (like make dinner or pick the kids up on time). I found this out the hard way.

So I’ve been working my way along towards being more organized, and over the years I’ve found a few tips that worked. Get into routines. Use a calendar. Say no to things that aren’t important (aka ‘you must not be busy, can you…?’). Last year, I began using the Snowflake Method (see the sidebar for a link) to prepare and organize my writing. Through that, I discovered the spreadsheet.

I’m a doctor, not a businessperson (to paraphrase Bones McCoy), and spreadsheets were something new. Best thing I ever learned to use. Not only are they great for outlining (you can insert a new scene with the touch of a button), but they’re useful in organizing other things as well. Can’t remember how much you wrote this month? Can’t remember if you put chemicals in the pool yesterday? Did you exercise/update your blog/take the next step towards filing your taxes? If you marked it down on your spreadsheet, you know.

I can look at how many words I wrote last month vs. this month, how many days of the month I worked out (like I keep saying I will), whether I did maintenance on our koi pond, and when the last time I did laundry was (just in case a certain someone asks).

I have the date over on the left, with columns for whatever I want to track. I put in a new set of headers every month, so I don’t have to scroll all the way to the top all the time. Most spreadsheet programs have a way to add up word counts, so you don’t have to. I’m fairly new at this but if you’re looking for a way to keep track of what you’re doing I would consider it. Almost every computer comes with a spreadsheet program, so poke around and see what yours has on it.