Most busy freelancers swear by an editorial calendar. The method of tracking ideas and deadlines may vary: Excel spreadsheets, large desktop calendars, specialized software, but the outcome is the same - better control over your time and a boost in productivity.
I admit, I was slow to warm to the editorial calendar idea. Sure I posted deadlines, but mapping out what I would be writing or blogging day after day seemed a bit restrictive to me. That is until I started getting so much work in I couldn't keep myself straight. After a couple of eyeball-busting nights spent hunched over the keyboard and I shouted "Uncle!" and tried to organize my thoughts and work for a week in advance.
It worked out well. Each morning I woke up, I knew what I needed to work on and didn't have to look to my plants for inspiration. As ideas and work came in I was able to plug them into the calendar. It has been working swell for me.
I use a pretty old fashioned method - the giant wall calendar. It allows me to see at a glance what all I have going on. I need that visual. It hangs right above my desk as a gentle reminder to "keep working and stop twittering" and allows me to sync up my family's activity calendar with my work calendar. I now know if I need to start working early one morning (like today) because my evening is going to be lost to an outing - like the Sex and the City movie preview I get to go to tonight!
There are some ways the calendar can fail you however - not looking at it. Right now my office is off-the-hook with supplies, loose papers, etc., so I've been at my kitchen table. With no calendar to keep me on task I've taken to copying my calendar into my smaller planner. Yes it's redundant, but whatever works!
Not updating your calendar won't help very much either. Even the simplest productivity enhancer take a little discipline.
Do you use an editorial calendar? What method do you use and how has it helped?