Get Organized: The Art Of A Flow Board

flow board

A flow board can provide a visual representation of what projects you have in the works, where they are in terms of completion, and which need immediate attention.

Many people talk about being in the flow. Whether it’s an athletic competition, an artistic project, or writing your book, flow is about transcending the normal to a find a place in your mind where extreme productivity lives and your highest achievements become possible — even effortless.

You know when you are in the flow. Everything is easier, faster, more meaningful. As a writer, after a bout of flow, you have something to show.

While a flow board can’t predict when you’ll have fits of inspiration, it can help you visually track progress and identify where you need to focus your energies for your next writing session.

What is a flow board?

In simple terms, a flow board is a place to keep track of things. It’s perhaps a whiteboard you can draw on or a cork board to which you can pin things. Any construct works as long as it is in view and sticks around: the point is to develop it over time.

A flow board serves as a scoreboard. How many articles do you have in the submission queue? How many blog posts did you publish in the last six months? If you are working on a book, what stages are your chapters in? How many are in development? How many are ready for a read? How many are returned from your beta readers with feedback?

Once you get flowing, you can certainly view it as a bit of a game. How quickly can you get an idea out the door? How many new ideas can you post in the next ten days?

Building your flow board

Many of us have a flow board without even knowing it — it just dwells in our minds. It’s an invisible, sometimes fuzzy, tally sheet. Some of us are more organized and transplant this game plan into a spreadsheet or some other kind of digital locale for safe keeping and circumspection.

A flow board harnesses the visual powers of humans. Spreadsheets and long text documents might hold useful details and provide in-depth analysis, but they are hard to get the “shape” of.

With a flow board, you see the big picture at a glance. It’s an image you can hold in your mind. You can use it to weigh priorities, progress, and options. You can look for themes and patterns. You can cull and discard, innovate and instigate.

Your flow board is a mental mirror. If you are doing a lot of things, it’ll relax your mind to dump it and post it on the wall. Ah! There is everything I’m working on, in all their varied stages. Oh! I’d better finish that piece now — this other one is due in a month.

Bins and tags

Use bins and tags to design your flow board — exactly how it works is up to you. It’s all about mapping a board and populating it with your writing.

Maybe your bins are “in progress” and “done.” Or maybe you want to slice your bins into more specialized segments. How about: idea, first draft, researched, second draft, polished, beta-read, submitted, published?

Your tags can be post-it notes or circles you cut out of construction paper of different colors. Mobility is why you make your tags out of post-it notes, pins, tape, Velcro… Unlike when working on paper, the fun is posting tags to a new bin. Maybe they read “urgent,” deadline approaching,” and “back burner.”

Setting up your board can be an eye-opener. What do you really have in your pipeline? What are your priorities, short- and long-term? What projects are you putting off? Writing it all down and posting it to your flow board forces you to take stock of what you really want to be working on and should be working on — sometimes the two are deviously not the same.

Some days you might want to work on the “idea” end of the board, other days are saved for “polishing and submitting.” You can immediately see the balance of options when you view your board.

Use your flow board as it proves helpful and change it up any time you need to. You can prioritize, so the most important tags run along the top. You might use shades of color or add marks to your tags to show how long they’ve lived on the board. You might decide to cull all the stagnant ideas or grab that diamond in the rough and polish it.

Each day, ponder your flow board for a few minutes and at reasonable intervals seriously size it up. It’s now part of your writing strategy. It’s supposed to bring more flow to your writing process.

Your path to self-publishing

2 COMMENTS

  1. Flow Board definitely a very good idea. I have taken this idea a step farther by creating portable mobile boards made out of foam board. You can use either post it notes or masking tape and index cards to map out your ideas. Further I have a small index card file box, yes a small box that was made to hold the index cards. I save my days work on the cards and number them. I can later post them back on my board for review. I can store several sets of index card maps and have several projects saved for future use. I can create a map outline of my story and I can easily rearrange and plan how the story develops and how the plot moves forward. Nothing is carved in granite. If I don’t like how it flows I can easily change and post on my board in the direction I wish it to flow from beginning to end. The point being I am in control of my story. I don’t want to waste time on a idea that is not strong enough to make a compelling story. I can test ideas and see what works best or seems to stand out to me and has promise. The best thing is I don’t have to type a ream of pages that go nowhere because I took some time to setup the flow of my story and feel satisfied it will go somewhere and have a much better ending. I know it may not feel inspiring for other writers but you can also combine freewriting with this to start your day and just post ideas made up of word phrases. just look around you on road signs, bill boards, business buildings you can catch advertising phrases and words that set your imagination turning. Then you can list them on your cards and set them up on your board and decide what you feel inspired to write about. Then after free writing about them you can take your ideas and post them on the board and again start creating a story. Use the mind mapping board to create and have fun with your ideas. Thank you.

  2. I think this idea is over complicated. Writing is not running an office. One does not need what is being written not written held over or back burner. Notes in themselves will do. I for instance -not recommended haha- have my first draft. The section-chapters are marked on the file. With numbers if necessary. Piled up in order in trays. Then when done moved across the desk to the out-tray.
    A whole board is overflow. The lot at once. We write daily. Mostly. No one needs to be reminded I assume this all about writing- what one needs wants intends to write. That is a given. This author’s assumption that one writes one day then another does polishing then not then something else seems a person disorganized that nothing will save. As for stagnant ideas. The die anyway. As for getting the writing done that is easy: write.

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