What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done?

Imagine a picture of perfect serenity.  This is not me.

Imagine a picture of perfect serenity. This is not me.

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.  

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water


So how did it go with the first week of Getting Things Done?

There is the good and the bad to report.

On the good side, I got a short story delivered on deadline, got two articles finished, and did post every day except – arguably – Friday on my blog. These were the things that absolutely had to be done.

On the bad side I have yet to find a program to keep my lists under, because right now the lists are in the drawer and none of the long-term tasks are getting anything done to them, except in sporadic and unfocused ways. Once the “thing that must be done today is done” I didn’t have easy access to the list of things that “could” also be done today. Also, I’m keeping the must-be-done’s scrawled on the calendar, which is not a good thing because it brings about all my fears of losing/forgetting the calendar.

I’m a Kindle Fire (and the other kindles too) user, and there are several free or inexpensive apps on kindle for keeping lists. Unfortunately I haven’t found one yet with the right combination of sub-lists that can get cued up.

The suggested OmniFocus is not available on Amazon except for Mac and as an old version.

I’m considering Evernote, and an ebook guide to using Evernote with the Getting Things Done methodology. But there are also lists of alternatives to OmniFocus. That is the task – in addition to getting half of Through Fire beta-ready and finishing the edits on Witchfinder – for the coming week.

What about the stress level? Am I less stressed?

Well, I confess that I’ve felt markedly less stressed about my to do list.

Again, as with the week, there’s a good side to this and a bad side. The good side is that I felt less stressed because I knew I wasn’t blowing past any crucial deadlines. Just having the dates on the calendar, even if all they do is induce an almighty panic the week before, means I’m not ignoring them and forgetting things.

There must be a better way to get all these to do task breakdowns out of my head!

There must be a better way to get all these to do task breakdowns out of my head!

You see, as my work has multiplied – here at PJM, and also at Baen, and also my indie efforts – it has become very easy to “misplace” or misapprehend a date, particularly when it’s for something minor, like a short story instead of a novel. In my case, because I’m special, I’m more likely to think the deadline is earlier than later and increase my stress level by driving myself insane with “I must finish ten short stories this afternoon.” (Not really, but sometimes close enough.)

You’re probably thinking “And you never thought of putting things on the calendar before?” Well, not really.

First, because when I started out this was a hobby. As such, it didn’t merit a place in the calendar. I was intending to make it pay off, but it didn’t, and therefore cleaning the house or making dinner was way more important.

Second, because when I did try organizers, they didn’t separate the “drop dead deadlines” from the other stuff that must/could/should be done that day. And since I eventually got tired of carrying forth must-could-should, I stopped putting in deadlines too.

Just knowing when I get a deadline that it goes on the calendar seems to reduce my stress. I can look up and go, “ooh, no deadlines today” and that makes life easier.

The bad side of why I felt less stressed about my to do list is that I felt more stressed about other things, including a very weird “social” insanity on the fandom side, which cannot and should not be discussed here but which has upset me very much.

And unfortunately the bad side of this upsetting me very much is that it brought back asthma that had been dormant since my pre-teens. Combine that with a lovely case of bronchitis and I feel like I’m sucking air in through a straw.

Once I get the boys and the aps organized, I'll be ready to take over the world.  Mwahahahahahah!

Once I get the boys and the aps organized, I’ll be ready to take over the world. Mwahahahahahah!

Despite this, though, real progress was made. Getting dates on the calendar really does slow down the stress – who knew? Now to get the tasks required to perform my long-term projects out of my head and onto something external. That’s the project for this week. I’ve gone to the doctor, so the muzzy-headed feeling should diminish.

I’m going to continue with the calendar thing, because it’s working. As for other lists, just having them on paper in a drawer doesn’t get them done. That’s got to change.

It has also been brought to my attention that if I can get someone else to shoulder some household tasks around here, I should be able to deal with the persistent problem that no organizational method can handle: how to fit 40 hours into 24 and still sleep eight hours. Of course, since my husband’s time is about as occupied as mine, this is going to require convincing young adult males that yes, there are to do lists more important than theirs. Wish me luck.


Images courtesy shutterstock / sellingpix / Andrei Zarubaika /