Organizing Your Writing Life with XPlan

Kanban is a great way of organizing and visualizing the many tasks and writing ideas of a writer.

A task manager can greatly improve your productivity, and the Kanban visualization, with cards and columns, is an easy and clear way to identify each task and giving it a proper position in your workflow.

We’ll see in this article how to use XPlan to organize your writing life, and not just the writing part of it.

If you already use Microsoft Windows as the main environment for your writing, there are good reasons to use a Windows application for organizing your work (among them: privacy, independence of the Internet connection, efficiency, and cost), so XPlan can be the natural tool for your Kanban setup.

To immediately give you an idea of what we’re talking about, the following could be the typical “today” window:

XPlan - today view

Now, let’s start from the beginning.

XPlan has two great advantages over any other task manager:

  • Full customization of types, states, and views.
  • Fully customizable hierarchical logic.

That allows you, with extremely easy steps, to make XPlan a perfect fit for your desired workflow.

The hierarchical logic just means that you can create projects, distinguish them by areas, put tasks in them, and even organize the hierarchical levels as you want, so that you can have a perfect overview of all of your work, as a whole or in part. Most Kanban tools just let you put tasks in them, distinguishing projects by separate boards.

Configuring states

You certainly want your work to be organized in at least two stages: queue (the classic “inbox”) and, progress.

In practice, you may want to add a few other stages, even if you certainly want to keep things simple.

Through the configuration menu, you can easily reach the list view for the states, where you can configure their properties and their order (as columns, from left to right) in the Kanban view.

XPlan configuration menu
XPlan states

The meaning of the states that we proposed as an example is the following:

  • Suspended: already evaluated a not in queue at present. Maybe evaluate again in future?
  • Pending: in queue. We’ll pick our next tasks from here, likely according to priority.
  • Wait: the task has been picked but is hanging on external conditions, or maybe an answer.
  • Go: the task has been picked from the queue as the next to work on.
  • Progress: actually working on it.
  • Closed: done or archived.

Of course, you can modify or extend this list as you want, and any task afterward created in a specific stage can be drag & dropped to another stage when you want.

Stages, for a writer, can be much more (draft, editing, submitted, …) but it’s likely that you already manage those stages by mean of different folders containing your actual documents, external to XPlan. It’s up to you to decide which of those stages are to be managed in XPlan, and which outside. In doubt, start keeping things simple.

Configuring types

Now let’s configure the fundamental components of our system, what we generally call tasks, but that can be projects, or assume other specific forms, like books, or posts.

Here is an example of a possible configuration (again, accessible by the configuration menu) of the task types:

XPlan task types

In detail:

  • Area: to have an overview of all of your work, you probably want a “container” to gather projects and everything else. That container is the area, at the top hierarchical level. Area is only a type of task/card. In our example, we then added four specific areas (visible in the next screenshots): Personal, Family, Freelancing, My writing.
  • Project: this is the project level. Something too big to be actionable. You want to split a project into parts, and especially in actionable parts.
  • Book: a book is a particular project, usually common for a writer. We distinguish it from a general project just for clarity, but it is nothing more nor nothing less than a project.
  • Phase: you may want to split a project into phases, and then to link tasks to a specific phase. Example: first draft, final draft, publishing, promotion. Of course, you can just avoid creating tasks of this type, if not necessary.
  • Task: This is the actionable item. Something you can work on without excessive further splitting.
  • Read: this is a common task type, for a writer. To read!
  • Post: this is yet another common task type. Post ideas here.

Of course, you can add other specific types, at the hierarchical level that you want. Color and border size are useful properties for visual identification of the corresponding cards in the Kanban board.

Setting hierarchical levels prevents, for example, the creation of a project inside of a task. On the contrary, you can create a task inside a project, but also a project inside a project, and a task inside a task.

Putting things together

Your overall board might then look like this:

XPlan general view

We’ll see later that you may want to restrict the view to some items, but let’s comment on this global view, for now.

In this global view, with no filter selected, you see all types of “tasks,” visually differentiated and with relevant properties visible on them. Also, they are sorted top-down according to their priority (the number at the bottom left of each card), which is a synthetic value automatically calculated according to importance, urgency, and possible due date.

You may have noticed that some tasks belong to more than one area (according to our example), so they will appear in filters about both areas. This is how the edit window of one of those tasks will appear:

XPlan task edit

Views

XPlan features a powerful search syntax.

For example, you can search for “today” items like that:

type<>area and type<>project and startdate<>future and statetype=progress

Of course, you don’t want to type that search again every time. That’s why you can configure your preferred searches, that in XPlan are called views.

An example here:

XPlan views

So, if you want to focus just on your personal writing, you just pick the My writing view in the toolbar.

XPlan - writing view

In conclusion

We hope to have given an overall idea of how it’s possible to use and adapt XPlan in the context of a writing life. Apart from the specific example, any other context can be addressed with a similar approach.

You might have noticed that the hierarchical approach is unique to XPlan, and particularly useful.

Custom filters allow you to have the exact perspective on your work that you need.

Of course, you can find the precise explanation of each feature in the in-app help.

Now, it’s time to download your evaluation copy and… just try it!