Trackless

sometimes the right track is difficult

sometimes the right track is difficult*

I have lots of tools that I use for planning and staying on track with my various projects. I don’t use all of them all the time, though.

The most powerful tool I have is the burndown sheet, whether in a spreadsheet or a carefully formatted text file. It’s exceptionally good at juggling multiple projects, especially when those projects are comprised of small, well understood tasks. I haven’t been using that lately because the projects I have on my plate are either large and monolithic or reactive.

Another really strong tool is time striping. This is terrific for packing a lot of work into a limited time, such as when multiple projects are coming up on deadline, or when there is an immovable date and a certain amount that needs to get done before. I haven’t been taking much notice of my time stripes in the last few weeks since neither of those pertain.

Word count goals are wonderful when you’re laboring in the word mines, whether in November or during other drafting, but not much use for editing. I know one writer who adds words during the week and trims them on the weekend, but that’s not me.

Next actions are useful for being aware of what you could be doing at any given time to move things forward: when one project hits the buffers for whatever reason, you can go to the next actions list and pull out something you could actually usefully do instead at that time. I’ve been using this more at the day job of late just because next actions are good for managing loosely defined projects or staying on task in a reactive mode. There’s also a stack priority ordering I like to do in the list which I will talk about another time.

The tool I have been using in my writing most recently has been the manuscript itself. Working through a printout of a book gives me immediate feedback on where I am, and a quick restart to return to a working state when I pick it up – almost a self-tracking project, in fact.

Each tool has its time. The trick with using any tool is recognizing when it is not appropriate, and to not feel guilty about not using it when another tool is being employed.

[*] this may be the oldest digital pic I’ve posted here. It’s from July 2001 on Dog Mountain along the Columbia Gorge on the Washington side.

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