So @Jamie_Adams22 and I were talking on Twitter about scheduling tools and accountability, right after I’d had a client run late on an editing project (Her reasons were entirely valid, so I didn’t hold it against her).

I’ll be the first to admit, I hold myself more accountable to deadlines than I often do my clients. My parents were military, so I was raised with the philosophy of “Hurry up and wait”. AKA it’s better to be ready early and have to wait for your time than to be late. On time is late, to that mindset.

So the usual caveats apply here. Not all of this may work for you, or may work all the time. I’ve grown into some of these methods over time, and jumping headfirst into it doesn’t usually work out well. If you’re perpetually late, like my friend who always shows up to events half an hour late, this isn’t going to make you early. But over time, it might help.

  1. Figure out what you need to do. This might seem obvious, but one of the reasons people often run late is because they forget about all the steps in the process. For purposes of examples, I’m going to outline the process I generally suggest for those self publishing. You need to plot the novel, write the novel, revise the novel, send it to betas, revise based on their feedback, then send to your editor, revise, organize your cover, send to your copy editor, revise, plan a promotion campaign, send to your formatter, upload to various book sellers for preorders, do your promotion, and keep doing it, have a launch party, more promotion. Break out each step as much as you need to get a handle on what all is involved.
  2. Figure out how much time you need for each step in an ideal world, then add 25%. Why 25%? Scotty’s Principle. No matter what you think you CAN do, other stuff is ALWAYS going to get in your way. Technology fails, people don’t get back to you as fast as you’d like, illness, family emergencies, etc… Life never happens the way it’s planned. Plan accordingly. I can get most of my full MS crits done in 4-5 days. I allow 7, because if I’m early, I look like a miracle worker. Far better than being late. (Of course, now you KNOW I can work miracles. Just never expect them!)
  3. Set both final and interim deadlines-Many of the items above overlap in actuality. I use a few different tools to sort deadlines when that happens. I use Habitica for a running list of what I need to do, and their ultimate deadlines. I also keep a wall dry erase calendar for each month so I can quickly glance and figure out what I need to be working on (Along with a google calendar so it’s on my phone. Yes, it’s redundant, but convenient). Like, with MS editing, I get the books on Wednesday, try to have it read by the end of Friday most times, write it up on Saturday/Sunday, and then I have Monday/Tuesday for a quick look over/refining notes before I send them back.

    When it comes to my own writing, I frequently set a finished deadline, and markers at 10%, 25%, 50%, and 75%. This lets me know about when I should, based on my schedule and the word count, hit those goals. If it takes me a day or two more than anticipated to hit 10%, I know I should put a bit more effort to hit 25% on time, etc. I also track my writing in an excel sheet with a column of goal word count for each day beside the actual word count for the day. Like this:sample WC excel 90k

    I use formulas where all I have to adjust to set the goal is the total word count goal and the amount of time, and the rest of the numbers sort themselves out. (Maxa function handles the words to go so I don’t even have to mess with that. What can I say, I was bored in my high school computer class.)

  4. Once all that is set up, I keep myself accountable. I turn days red on the excel if I don’t make my goal word count that day. If I know I’m going to have a busy day where I won’t write, I will make sure before that day comes that I’m ahead enough to skip, and then any bonus words are just icing. I also know that in the first week or two of a new project, I’m more enthusiastic about it, and I write more on weekends than during the week. So I adjust my spreadsheet to reflect that. This usually results in my theoretically finishing about 5-7 days ahead of where I ostensibly want to for my buffer. This ends up looking something like this:
    sample WC excel 90k_after adjustments

    That repeat of 16000? Is where I’m out of town for 3 days and know if I get anything done, it’ll be amazing. But you’ll note 60k ends up earlier in May this way, because I add extra words before that and on the following weekend.

    Questions? Shout! I try to only update this thing when there’s something worth saying,so if you have things you’re curious about, feel free to ask, I’ll probably make a post about it! 😀