Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have “To Do” lists I refer to on a daily basis.

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I’ve used everything from notebooks, to pads with printed numbers, to journals, to pages I created and printed to put into a binder, to random lists, to sticky notes. I frequently read books on being better organized.

Some years ago, I realized Excel files were the most flexible format for keeping my To Do’s current and useful, and I’ve run my life by them ever since. (*See footnote below.)

The Key is being flexible. Unlike writing something on paper, using an Excel file makes changing the day to do the task very, very easy. Even though I try to live by the rule that everything will take at least 3 to 4 times longer to do than I think it will, I still tend to consistently underestimate how much times things will take, so I change those dates way too often!

So, given that I’m likely being over-optimistic, these are the things I’d really, really, REALLY like to get done this year.

Because I also know that just having goals without having concrete plans leads to goals often not being hit, I will also write down my plan (to date) to hit each goal.

Note: I’m using my goals for 2014 as an example.


A.  Complete my 3rd Mystery

During November 2012 and 2013, and April 2013, I used NaNoWriMo to write roughly 120,000 words of my third mystery, which was originally titled Opaque Rays. (Note: that was later changed to Shadow of a Butterfly: The Case of the Harmless Old Woman). Which meant, I had most of a first draft completed. So my most urgent goal was to complete the first draft, and then get the second draft written.

(You can see my mysteries at my J. A. Menzies site.)

My plan:
  1. Finish 1st draft by Jan 31. Write every morning from 9:30 to 12:30. Add more hours if needed during the last week or two.
  2. Finish 2nd draft by Feb 28. Edit every morning as above.
  3. Have my substantive readers go through it the first week of March.
  4. Make changes.
  5. Send ms to an editor for revisions mid-March.
  6. Complete the final draft by April 30.
  7. Get the book formatted by May 7.
  8. Send the book to the proofreader on May 7.
  9. Get the book published by June 1.

B. Finish writing my memoir

Starting in 2004, I’ve been slowly working on a memoir, which has the working title LoveChild: Life Lessons from a former “ugly duckling.”

If you’d like to catch a glimpse of what LoveChild will be like, you can read my award-winning true story, “The Diamond Ring”,” which is published in the anthology Hot Apple Cider.

My plan:
  1. Work on it for one hour each day during the week.
  2. Work on it exclusively during July and August.
  3. Publish it in serial format beginning September, 2014. Maybe sooner. (Note: didn’t happen. As of 2017, I’m still working on it!)

C. Finish my fantasy for children

A few years ago, at a grandchild’s urging, I wrote a children’s fantasy, which should be roughly 50,000 words when completed. It’s working title is The Misadventures and Tribulations of Princess Persnickety and Stefan the Stableboy. I need to finish editing it and get it published. (Update – done! See it here.

My plan:
  1. Work on the final edits during the 1st week of March and continue to work on it during the proofreading, etc. of the mystery.
  2. Have it in print by September.

D. Create more videos and e-books for writers

I have a ton of materials for writers that I’ve taught over the years, at writers’ conferences, all-day workshops, and classes at Redeemer College and Tyndale University. I’ve begun posting a few things, but I have so much more that could be made available.

(By the way, I have a whole site for writers –

My plan:
  1. I hope to be able to post at least a few of my workshops this year. I still have to figure out how to make that happen. My guess is I’ll take a break of a week here and there and spend a few days getting the material into shape and then tape the video on Friday and have someone else edit it.
  2. My goal is to do 4, one every 3 months.



A. Get the Discussion Guide for Hot Apple Cider in print (POD) and e-book

I’m working with Marguerite Cummings to get the Discussion Guide for Hot Apple Cider edited and published in both print and e-book formats. The deadline is the end of January. The Discussion Guide is intended to be used by book clubs or small groups who are reading Hot Apple Cider.

My plan:
  1. Marguerite is currently going over the last edit
  2. Make changes as needed
  3. Proofreading done
  4. Finish edited and get both the e-book and print layouts ready
  5. Do a small print run

B. Get my 5 Coming-of-age novels republished as ebooks

Some years ago, I wrote and published five coming-of-age books. One of my most urgent goals is to get them updated and published both as e-books and with new covers as print books. These books include the Young Adult Circle of Friends series and the New Adult standalone In Time of Trouble.

My plan:
  1. Read each book and edit as needed
  2. Have 5 beta-readers read each book and send me suggestions
  3. Format the books for print and  e-format
  4. Get new covers

And then, of course, there are all the blogs I want/need to write, and the reviews I’ve promised a few people, and—well—if you’re a writer, you know how it is. Plus, none of my writing goals here actually talk about marketing, which of course is a whole other ball game!

* In case you’ve never thought of using an Excel file to track your to do list, here are the headers on mine:

By the way, in order to enable sorting, I use numbers whenever possible.

  • Area (letter or number)
  • Area (overall name – e.g. write memoir, write mystery, clean kitchen, etc.)
  • Urgency (number)
  • Month (number) For next year, use 13, 14, etc.
  • Day (Mon, Tues, etc.)
  • Date (number)
  • Type (Kind of activity if there is need for a second sort other than area – e.g. I sort writing into writing (1), publishing (2), marketing (3)
  • Time (in my case, I divide my day into morning (1), afternoon (2), and evening (3)
  • Order (numbers)
  • Task (description)
  • Who (only if it involves someone other than me)

To determine by jobs for each day, I sort by: Area#; Month; Date; Time; Order; Urgency (for things not yet given a date)

However, I can also sort by area, urgency, and so forth.

January 13, 2014

About the author 

N. J. Lindquist

N. J. Lindquist is the award-winning author of books, articles, short stories, and blog posts. She also edits and publishes the "Hot Apple Cider" anthologies. A former high school teacher, N. J. co-founded The Word Guild and teaches workshops for writers as well as speaking on various topics including creativity and leadership.

  • Your project list sounds as long as mine. I’ve had getting my books into e-book format on my to-do list for several years and still haven’t got it done. Always too busy writing something new. I actually have a plan to get two new books out this year. Good luck with that one, right?

  • I’m an Excel junkie too! i run all my check registers in a spreadsheet. This is an excellent tool and it is easy to use. There are many free tutorials on the Internet if you’re not familiar with Excel but feel it might be a good tool for you.

    • Hi I. O.,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Yeah, Excel is cool. :)

      Having said that, it’s funny because one of my sons is an expert in Excel, but he uses it for numbers and stuff, which I have virtually no clue about.

      I use it for planning, and lists, and so forth.


  • It’s so nice to see these projects taking shape, NJ, after your years of facilitating the success of others through your leadership of The Word Guild. I love the way you timeline your projects and break them down into tasks. All the best with this diverse set of projects!

    • Thanks so much Violet!

      Yeah, we’re working on it. Currently going through every thing I write/want to write, and trying to get it all laid out. Since I write in a variety of genres, I am very atypical, and we’re looking for ways to make it work! I think we’ve finally found one.

      We’ll see how well it goes. :)


  • Whew! That’s an impressive list of goals. I have trouble managing one writing project at a time, so I’m totally in awe! Sounds like you have it under control, though. I love mysteries and will have to check yours out.

    • Thanks, Kathleen.

      Sometimes I wish I could focus on one thing, but too many ideas keep popping into my head! Sometimes I feel like a juggler.

      I love mysteries too. Especially the classic British cozy/police procedural style.


  • Yay! Another list person! I use a little app on my phone called ‘Out of Milk’ for my lists. My goodness, you are one busy gal! I am impressed with the way you even have set deadlines for yourself (and action plans) Very thorough! All the best to you this year.

  • These are great goals. I like the way you have it broken down into a plan. I’ve also thought of using Excel to keep track of my projects and to-do lists (especially since I have a lot on the go this semester at university), but then I’d have to have my computer on to check what’s due next… might try it anyway so thanks for the tips. Good luck with all your projects! :)

    • Thanks for your comment, Bonnie.

      You can also print out an Excel file, or part of one, if needed.

      Or paste the list in order in your smart phone, etc.

      Where there’s a will…


  • Hi Nancy – you have some very exciting projects, jam packed full. I thought I had a lot! Personally, I find I can’t do an hour a day on any writing project. I get immersed and the hours go by.

    • Thanks for your comment, Bobbie Ann,

      I have trouble limiting myself to an hour too, but I figure aiming at one hour is better than waiting until I can give it more time, sine I don’t know when that will be.

      It’s kind of like being in school and having different subjects/classes. :)


  • Sounds like you’ve got everything under control! My memoir, “And God Still Loves Me” will be released on Thursday….what a challenging experience! Good Luck in your endeavors!

  • Good morning Nancy,
    As I told Ruth we need to be in prayer for all these writing goals. Maybe a Facebook event? or group? of Christian writers?
    Praying right now that God will see the desires of your heart; He will give you clarity and time to focus on them; that He will bless every word you put to paper (computer).

    • Thanks. I hope your goals are met, too.

      As a member of The Word Guild, I reply primarily on their prayer team and the prayers of family and friends who feels God wants them to pray for me. However, any and all prayer is good.


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