How To Keep Track of Your Projects

Or, Index Cards Aren’t Just For Grade School.

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably got lots of projects. Stories, poems, essays, novel ideas, etc. I once had the nasty habit of starting a thousand projects, but finishing very few of them. Recently, I came up with a quick, easy way to hold myself accountable for my work. It’s a good way to motivate yourself to write, rewrite, and submit for publication.

The secret: a pack of index cards.

Label each card with the title (or working title) of one of your projects in big, bold letters. Also include a short synopsis below, so as not to confuse yourself. It helps to buy a bulletin board of some sort to tack these cards onto, but you can also just keep them in a stack on your desk. At the bottom (or the back) of each card, you might list the places you’ve targeted to submit that project to (a literary magazine, agency, or publisher).

This may sound like a chore. But it literally takes seconds per project. And so far, for me, it’s a great motivational tool. As humans, we crave organization and completion. Why do you think sudoku and crossword puzzles are so popular and addictive? If you can visually see your projects next to each other, you will be more likely to spend time with them.

Plus, it feels good to know exactly how many projects you’ve got brewing.

After a wonderfully on-the-house cup of coffee this morning, I walked through the snow to my neighborhood grocery store, where I found…wait for it…a Pepsi Superbowl display stacked with free 3D glasses. I stole a whole sheet.


6 thoughts on “How To Keep Track of Your Projects

  1. Anne Lamott totally does this. Read Bird By Bird. “I have index cards and pens all over the house–by the bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, but the phones, and I have them in the glove compartment of my car. I carry one with my in my back pocket when I take my dog for a walk. In fact, I carry it folded lengthwise, if you need to know, so that, God forbid, I won’t look bulky. You may want to consider doing the same.”


  2. Wee! I’m commenting on your blog. (this is Jamie. not Timothy) That sounds like a good idea. I feel like I would be more motivated if I had a dozen notecards staring me in the face. later!


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