I’m a paper and pencil gal. No two ways about it, I love my paper planner, colored file folders, and 4-color pen. I even have a collection of Flair markers that I use for color-coding or just…coloring.
But, when it comes to staying organized in my business, I use what works best–paper or not. As a matter of fact, I’ve found four digital tools for writers that have revolutionized my productivity and helped me to be better at what I do.
Digital Tools for Writers
Have you met Trello?
O.M.G. I LOVE Trello!
I’ve tried many digital tools for writers like Evernote or OneNote and by the time I figure them out, I’m dropping them like a bad date. But not Trello. Trello’s like that beach blonde, blue-eyed dreamboat at the end of the bar sipping a ginger ale and flashing his pearly white smile.
Well, actually, it’s more like using sticky notes on a bulletin board except they don’t fall off when someone walks past your desk. I can set up an entire project on one screen. Or keep track of my workflow at a glance. Boy, do I wish I knew Trello when I was writing my book!
I can color code with Trello. I can upload files. I can share my boards with other people so that we can work together on a project. Here are the ways I use or have used it in the past.
I have a board labeled Work Flow. On that board are nine lists–one for each stage of the project’s journey. I’ve labeled them: Queries to send, Queries out, Assignments rec’d, Waiting on interviews/research, Drafts started, Final editing, Submitted, Revisions, and Done. I create a card for each idea and place it in the Queries to send list. Once I’ve honed that idea into something to submit and I’ve actually pitched it to an editor, I move that card to the Queries out list. And so it goes down the way until it’s done.
When I was a magazine editor, I used Trello to plot out each issue of the magazine. When I was the content manager for a niche food blog, I used Trello for my team of writers. Each writer had their own list and they created cards for their blog posts and uploaded their posts and photos to Trello.
Yes, you can add comments, files, and photos to each card. You can color-code your cards. And another thing, you can assign due dates and Trello will alert you when your assignment is due. How cool is that???
Be a Better Writer with GrammarCheck
I’ve applied for several freelance positions in the last few months that have had the same question on their application: “What online editing tool do you use to check your work?” Really? Of all the digital tools for writers out there in the world, this is one I never dreamed I’d use because I’m a bonafide typo magnet. Why would I need to use an online editor?
That’s exactly what I thought to myself before I discovered GrammarCheck. This online editor utilizes the free version of Grammarly, for what that’s worth. (I have the free version of Grammarly installed but find it more annoying than anything.) But, once you copy and paste your content into the GrammarCheck editing box and click the FreeCheck button, it will show you where you have used the passive voice.
This one little thing has helped me to write stronger. After a year of using this tool, I see a lot less of the green underlines that signify passive voice.
Use Google Calendar for Time Blocking
Yes, I love my paper planner. But, I also love Google Calendar. Let me tell you why this is one of my favorite digital tools for writers.
I use Google Calendar primarily for time-blocking my work hours. I work 10-4 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Everything else goes into my paper planner. (Yes, I will add personal things in Google, too. But I don’t try to time block on paper. Keep reading and you’ll see why.)
When I get an assignment, one of the first things I do is block time to work on it. Let’s say the assignment is a 500-word blog post on non-culinary uses of cinnamon. The post requires no interviews and minimal research. I should be able to do it in 60-90 minutes. On my Google Calendar, I will create an event in dark green (dark green is reserved for client work) labeled Cinnamon Post.
If I have a coaching call with my mastermind coach Carol Tice, I block out that hour in lavender, for classes/training. Interviews are blocked off in lime green, business tasks like invoicing or writing social media posts are blocked off in deep purple, and you get the idea.
So, let’s say the only time one of my story sources can free up for an interview is that very hour I blocked off to write my cinnamon post. No problem, I can just drag and drop that block somewhere else in my week. Holy Moly, I can’t do THAT in my paper planner. And THAT (and the color coding) is EXACTLY why I LOVE Google Calendar. That, and the next thing.
Schedule Interviews with Calendly
Before I started using Calendly, this is how things would go when it came to setting up interviews.
I didn’t hear back from you regarding an interview for my story. Are you still up for it? I can do Friday. Please let me know what time works for you.
I’m so sorry I thought I replied to you! I’ll be driving home from vacation on Friday. I am available this afternoon or tomorrow afternoon (after 1pm).“
“I’m thinking tomorrow. What time zone are you in?“
“Will 1:30 CT tomorrow work, then?”
You get the idea! And, this one was easy. Many times, the interview is scheduled and they need to change it. Then there is even more back and forth as to days and times. Scheduling interviews can be both exhausting and a huge time suck for both people.
That is a thing of the past with Calendly. I now go to my Calendly page and mark days and times I am open to interviews. (I generally reserve Tuesdays and Thursday for interviewing because I will block time on the other days for other tasks.) I can mark times up to three weeks in advance. And I can create time slots for as long as I want. I try to limit most of my interviews to 20-30 minutes so I have my time slots at 45 minutes. That gives me a buffer zone between interviews if folks schedule back to back.
When I email a source to request an interview, I simply include my personal Calendly link. They go there, choose a time in my time zone, include their phone number, and Calendly emails me to tell me when it is.
And the best part??? It automagically adds it to my Google Calendar in the lime green color I’ve reserved for interviews!
And the more best part??? If I’ve scheduled something on my calendar during hours I’ve marked on Calendly as available, Google tells Calendly I did that and will mark that time slot as unavailable.
And the even more best part??? If the source needs to change the time, he simply goes back to Calendly, chooses a new day and time, and I am notified. No more back and forth emailing! And if I need to change the time, I simply drag and drop the block on my Google calendar and the source is notified.
It’s like MAGIC!
What about you? What is your favorite digital tool for writers that keeps you on track? Please share in the comments.