Time-Savers for Writers: Ways to Automate and Delegate

For two weeks this summer, I got to set aside other writing projects to focus on transmedia storytelling. (I know, I know…you never would have guessed!) In case you’re curious, here’s a screenshot of what I’ve been working on (and will *hopefully* unveil before the year’s end–fingers crossed!!):


It was pretty darned exciting: my brother-in-law flew into town to help with website and database coding and my husband/co-conspirator and story inventor took time off work to help with writing, story structure, and all the little details involved in telling a story through multiple media channels. We started each day early with an update on where we all were and worked pretty much nonstop, bouncing ideas off each other, brainstorming, troubleshooting, critiquing…

Sounds like fun, right? It was! It was also a ton of work. And a ton of time. We only had two weeks together, and needed to make the most of it.

Can you say BUSY? Yes, that would describe us!

The truth is, though, we writers are often usually busy. Even if life and work obligations don’t fill up your to-do list, don’t you find yourself cramming in as much as possible, because there are so many cool ideas to explore, so many projects you want to work on? Or maybe you’re simply busy because it’s November now, and with or without NaNoWriMo to fill your spare time, this time of year can easily get out of hand.

Whatever the cause of your busy-ness, I thought you might appreciate some of the time-savers that help me stay afloat when my schedule gets crazier than usual :).

Time-Saving Tip #1: Automate


ifttt2I’ve started using a web service called IFTTT – which stands for If This, Then That. It allows you to program “actions” on various “channels.” Translated into non-Geek Speak, you can create IFTTT recipes to automate tasks. For example, it can automatically

It takes a few minutes to figure out the system and a few minutes to set up each “recipe”, but the setup time is minimal compared to the time it can save you!

Take a look at your daily tasks: you may be surprised to find that some of them can be taken over by an IFTTT recipe.

Time-Saving Tip #2: Delegate

Fancy Hands

FancyHandsDelegation: it’s a great concept, but who has the cash to hire a personal assistant? Enter Fancy Hands, a service providing a pool of virtual assistants to complete those busywork tasks that can eat up so much of your day.

They aren’t free. If you charge out for any of your time, though, paying for their help may actually put you ahead in the money department.

I’ve found their assistants to be consistently polite, quick to communicate with questions, and quick to fix any problems. I’ve used them for tasks such as

  • Creating a spreadsheet from scanned receipts
  • Double-checking the critique schedule I created for a local conference (to make sure I hadn’t double-booked anyone!)
  • Simple proof-reading
  • Simple research tasks
  • Transcribing my handwritten notes
  • Finding a violin shoulder rest in the middle of Kansas (don’t ask! but I should note that they succeeded on this one, after I’d already spent 15 minutes and gotten nowhere)

The only thing they weren’t great at doing? Transcribing my handwritten notes…but since I have just about the worst handwriting of anyone I know, I can’t really hold that against them!

Fancy Hands can also integrate with quite a few software applications, such as Evernote, Google calendars, Basecamp, Asana, and others. Have a repeated task? You can automate it on your dashboard. Need to order flowers or chocolates? They can get you discounts with quite a few companies.

If you’re interested in checking out the Fancy Hands service for free, leave me a note in the comments. I can give away a certain number of my “Tasks” and would be happy to let you check them out!

(And if you decide to subscribe, please use this referral link, which will give both of us a discounted month!)

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share other time-savers and tools that I’ve found helpful. Some can benefit writers of all types; others will be of interest primarily for those of you who are interested in experimenting with transmedia storytelling. Please check back to learn more!

The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know - www.cherylreif.com

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


  1. says

    I love Fancy Hands. One of my clients requires sources and links formatted a specific way, and he usually has a lot of them. It really slows me down. Fancy Hands takes care of it and I don’t lose my flow.

    I also use them to transcribe interviews, find interesting facts and statistics, schedule appointments, and more.

    Like you say, they are always polite and responsive. They are also fast! Usually same day.

  2. says

    Hi there, thanks for stopping by–glad to hear from another happy FancyHands client! I hadn’t thought of asking them to find interesting facts and statistics–that’s a great idea. I like the idea of asking them to do some of that nit-picky formatting, too.

    I think the most difficult part of using them is identifying places where I can pass along work to someone else. The “delegation mindset” is an acquired skill, I think.

    We’ll just have to keep spreading the word :)!


  1. […] A few weeks back, I told you about how working  with my brother-in-law and husband for two weeks of intense creative collaboration, putting together the framework for a transmedia storytelling project. […]