Monday, January 6, 2020

Systems for Writers in 2020

by Ralene Burke @RaleneB

I almost didn’t write about consistency in this post because Edie Melson posted about Intentional Consistency last Monday. However, I thought I could come at it from a bit of a different angle and share with you my personal vision.

See, BE CONSISTENT is my theme for 2020.

Over the last few years, I have grown more and more inconsistent in most areas of my life. Sure, many would agree that the kind of obstacles I’ve had thrown at me would more than cover the reason for that decline. From various serious illnesses in my family to moving to financial crisis…the list goes on.

However, one important fact has remained the same. God has always been there. God IS consistent with His desire to care for His children. His example is all we need to see how WE should strive to be. No, it’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever was.

As I pondered my inconsistency these last few years, I’ve realized I have not only been harming myself, but I’ve been damaging my relationships with those in my life, whether business or personal. I haven’t been the light that I’m supposed to be.

With God’s help—I aim to fix that.

For 2020, I’m not setting goals like “lose 30 lbs.” or “write 1,000 words/day.” Instead, I’ll be working on my SYSTEMS.

What are Systems?

Systems are the tools we use to ensure things in our life get done like they need to be. Some examples would be:
  • Menu Planning
  • Calendars & To-Do Lists
  • Schedules/Routines
  • Apps Relevant to Life
  • Accountability
  • + Many Others

How do Systems Work?

Let’s say I want to be more consistent in my writing. Instead of saying I want to write 1,000 words/day, I set up in my lifestyle a way to achieve more writing. I could:
  • Set a time to write. For me, I’ve decided writing needs to happen first thing or it likely won’t happen at all. So, I’m going to write from about 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., Monday thru Saturday.
  • Make sure everyone in my household knows that this is my writing time, and I am not to be bothered unless it’s a valid emergency.
  • Make sure my desk and my laptop are all ready to go the night before so that, as soon as I finish my quiet time, I can sit down and dive in.
  • Keep a running list on ToDoist of what (besides my novel) needs to be written and their deadlines—like blog posts and articles—and have certain days that I tackle those as well. 

Systems happen naturally in most areas of our lives. But sometimes those systems need to be tweaked or even completely overhauled. If you have something in your life that you want/need to do, but it never gets done, likely your SYSTEM needs to be reconsidered.

Last year, my husband and I realized we were eating out too much, which was bad for our health, and spending too much money on it, which was not good for our savings goals. One of the biggest culprits for this habit was that we didn’t often think about dinner ahead of time and therefore never set any meat out to thaw or ensured we had other ingredients on hand. So, we started using Google Calendar to plan monthly menus, which helped us to know what we needed to lay out to thaw and helped me plan our grocery shopping better.

What are some of the other systems I’m using for 2020?
  • ToDoist is my digital to-do list. It’s available across devices, so I have it on both my phone and my laptop. I can divide my to-do list into different categories (like I have one for personal, one for Realm Makers, one of writing, one for business…), different labels, color-coded, set priority. The app is already integrated with my Gmail account so I can easily turn emails into tasks, but I could also tie it to Google Calendar so that my tasks are listed in the calendar as well—but I haven’t done that yet.
  • I have a “command center” at home. This is a desk by our front door, which is where we keep our purses/wallets. There’s a white-board calendar where my family can see what is coming up. There’s a holder for folders like bills, important papers, etc. It also houses our printer, since that is something we all use (my husband and I both work form home, and my kids are homeschooled).
  • Ladies of Spec/Realm Makers: Realm Makers is my tribe of writer friends. I converse with them on the Realm Makers Consortium, where we talk about all things speculative fiction and fandoms. However, with over 1,800 members, I turn to my Ladies of Spec group (6 Realmies) for encouragement and accountability. 
  • Apex Writers is a new program from a publishing legend, David Farland. Similar to my Realm Makers tribe, this group is aimed at growing writers who have a hand on the pulse of publishing in order to grow their careers. With weekly meetings and professional training, this might be the year I finally get consistent in my writing!
  • My Brilliant Writing Planner: While this planner is mostly aimed toward writing, there’s a lot of space for personal planning as well. There are sections for yearly, quarterly, and weekly planning/review. While I’m mostly a digital nomad, this planner is still invaluable to me.
  • Habits is an app to start tracking habits I want to develop. For January, I just have 2: waking up at 5:30 and writing at 6. I check a box every day if I accomplished the task. If I get so many checks in a row, I get a special reward. So, it makes a game out of it. I can get pretty competitive—even with myself. Next month, I’ll add a couple more habits.

Systems play a large part in our success as writers and in life. We should evaluate our systems on a regular basis to ensure they are effective and to tweak them if they are not. Consistency comes from systems and habits. Get those in place first, then watch the results blow everyone away!

What systems/habits do you need to focus on this year?


Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a social media wand, or a freelance editor’s sword, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone #SHINE Beyond their circumstances! Her novels, Bellanok and Armor of Aletheia, are available on Amazon. More fantasy novels coming soon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all-around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . . You can also find her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or at her website.


  1. Outstanding methods of organization. I couldn't function without a system. Thanks for sharing yours.

    1. Thanks, DiAnn! I've focused on "goals" for so long, finding that the issue was my systems has really helped!

  2. Ralene, I'm so glad you DID share this post. It's full of valuable info that I'm excited to put into practice! Thank you!

    1. Ah thanks, Edie! I'm glad it could add some value on top of your post. :)

  3. Thank you for these great tips on organization. I am a better writer when I am organized. :-)

  4. Systems (and organizing . . . and purging) make me HAPPY. I loved reading about yours and about the apps that are helping you. I think I'm going to check some of those out! I feel much less chaotic when I'm utilizing my systems.

    1. Glad I could point out some new system tools for you, Jeanne! I know the giddiness of organizing and purging!!!

  5. I needed this today! It's the first day of the new year that I've actually had time to sit down at my computer and start PLANNING. I may have a word of the year yet . . . SYSTEM!

    1. Oh, I'm so excited this could inspire y'all. I think SYSTEM is a good word. Or maybe make it an active phrase: Develop Life Systems. :)

  6. These are great ideas for getting more time to write! Thanks

  7. I love ToDoist as a key component to my own overarching productivity system. Good thoughts!

    (apologies if this appears twice; first comment appeared to get eaten :) )