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  • Writer's pictureangiespoto

New Year, New Task Management System

Task management as a concept probably seems like it has absolutely no business anywhere near anything creative. For me, though, how I manage my time and the expectations I set for myself – especially for ‘non writing’ things – sets me up for creativity.

Here’s the thing. I don’t have a lot of time. I work full time in the healthcare IT world. I’m mom to a very active three-year-old. And I’m a human who needs to do all the normal human things like returning Amazon packages, going to the doctor, and filling out forms. I prioritize writing because I love it and I get very grumpy if I don’t do it, but I can’t spend much time doing it each week. And I don’t write every day.

At the start of the new year, I was feeling overwhelmed. I had a running list of to dos that was only ever growing and a vague goal to write 1 - 2 hours a night after work. Every evening, I felt torn between tackling my to do list or writing - and the result was either I didn’t get enough done that week to keep me feeling afloat or I was unfocused during my writing time.

Inspired by novelist Sarra Cannon, who shares her task management systems on You Tube, I decided I needed to take a step back and re-configure my task management system. Sarra spoke about thinking about your time in task blocks. For me, I use a 25 minute block of time (I’m a fan of the Pomodoro Method, so that’s where that came from). So I sat down and:

  1. Categorized all my tasks. Ultimately I landed on: writing (editing, plotting, etc), life admin (e.g. scheduling doctor’s appointments), publicity (for my writing career, stuff like social media, newsletters), submissions (sending my short stories out into the world, competitions, grants, etc), and non-profit (time to work on supporting The Survivor Arts Community).

  2. Determined the time I needed per task type. Then, without thinking about how much time I actually had, I determined how much time per week I felt like I needed to devote to each task to feel balanced.

  3. Assigned task blocks to each task type. I considered the time I actually did have and negotiated how much time I could devote to each task type. That meant making some compromises to be sure I wasn’t giving myself unreachable expectations. It’s always good to assume you’ll be able to work no more than 70% at capacity; some days you may have more energy and can get more done, but some days you just have to throw the towel in early. Never assume you’re going to hit your goal 100% of the time.

  4. Created a weekly schedule. Finally, I arranged the task types and task blocks into a schedule. I dedicated certain days of the week to certain task types. For example, on Mondays, I just write. I spend three task blocks (that's 75 minutes) writing. Nothing else. I don’t expect to get anything done on my admin to do list. I don’t plan to post on social media. This allows me to focus on the task at hand – it’s such a relief!

So far, this new task management system has given me greater balance. I have more reasonable expectations for myself. Since my goals are based on time devoted rather than task completion, I don’t feel unproductive if I don’t actually cross something off my to do list – if I put in the time, then I’m right on track. This goes for my writing, too. I’m at a time in my writing career when I don’t have any deadlines (I know this won’t last – then I’m sure I’ll need to re-evaluate my task system!), so I don’t have any word count goals. I just put in the time and feel good about it!

Here’s my weekly schedule. Hopefully it inspires folks who are managing a lot of moving pieces (who isn’t?) to re-think how they manage their tasks, time, and expectations.

// Weekly Schedule


+ writing, editing, plotting --> 2 task blocks


+ writing, editing, plotting --> 3 task blocks


+ admin --> 3 task blocks


+ admin --> 1 task block

+ submissions --> 2 task blocks


+ writing, editing, plotting --> 2 task blocks

+ publicity --> 2 task blocks


+ non-profit--> 2 task blocks


+ writing, editing, plotting --> 3 task blocks

Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet living in Edinburgh. In 2020, she completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her doctoral thesis was a fantasy novel, called The Grief Nurse, and a collection of essays on grief, madness and language. The Grief Nurse has been shortlisted for the First Novel Prize 2021 and The Bridge Awards Emerging Writer Award in 2020. Angie is represented by Robbie Guillory from Underline Literary Agency.

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