How to prioritize your writing projects

Diverse group of young people using laptops and smartphones while sitting in row on a bench. Image via Adobe Stock.

For many writers who work in-house in tech or tech-adjacent fields, the ability to prioritize projects is a skill that doesn’t necessarily come naturally. It’s something you need to learn.

Knowing which projects will need the most brainpower, time, and effort is not by default built in to your day-to-day life, and it can be very different working at an agency or as a freelancer.

If you’re at a startup, or are the only writer at your company, you’re likely juggling many different projects across a variety of surfaces.

You might be doing all of the UX writing, marketing copywriting, press releases, emails, error messages, API documentation, and more. Prioritizing your projects correctly will save you a lot of grief.

If you’re at a large company or on a team of writers, it’s possible that your projects will be assigned to you or otherwise initially prioritized by your manager, producer, or upper management.

How you then prioritize the projects that are on your plate is up to you—and doing so deliberately will help you be more efficient, productive, and will ease the burden of your workload considerably.

Elements of prioritization

So what are some things you’ll want to look at when figuring out what projects to prioritize?

As you review the list of projects you’re assigned or have signed up to write, consider these four main elements as you prioritize which ones will need the most time and space:

  1. Company OKRs or key goals
  2. New language or new concepts
  3. Visibility: external and internal
  4. Revenue impact potential

Company OKRs or key goals

The first priority is any project directly tied to achieving a key goal for your company, no matter how your company measures goals: objectives and key results (OKRs), key performance indicators (KPIs), or anything else.

If your writing project will impact a measurable company goal, that’s a major priority.

Just remember to follow up after the goal has been met to learn what the results were. Being able to tie your writing projects to achieved goals will raise your influence internally and set you up for further success in your writing career.

New language or new concepts

Your next priority is any project that requires you to create new language (such as a new product or feature), introduce your audience to that language (such as a launch for that new feature), or develop an entirely new concept for your audience (such as category creation).

Creating new language, naming features and products, developing categories, and educating your audience on these new concepts and names takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, and buy-in.

As a writer, you’ll need to be involved from the very beginning, to do your best work. Prioritizing these projects means you’ll have the time and brain-space needed to develop new language in a thoughtful way.

Visibility: external and internal

Your third priority is any project that’s highly visible, either (or both) externally and internally.

External visibility could be something like a brand redesign, a full-page ad in the Washington Post, an annual conference or other large company event a la Dreamforce—or anything else your company does to raise awareness and consideration in the world.

Internal projects are sometimes a huge priority, as well, particularly if a personal goal is to raise visibility for yourself or your team within your company.

An example of a high-visibility internal project could be creating a companywide style guide, speaking at or creating a deck for the company’s All Hands, or co-writing the company’s principles with your CEO.

Revenue impact potential

The fourth consideration when prioritizing your projects is the potential for high revenue impact.

This should ideally be determined before the project kickoff and listed in the project brief or project overview doc, but if it’s not, be sure to clarify with your team before jumping in.

If you have three projects on your plate but two of them are small experiments with little potential for revenue impact, and one that could make your company a huge amount of money, your best bet is to prioritize the latter.

Stay on track

Keep these elements in mind when you’re reviewing your projects for the day, week, quarter, and year. You’ll likely learn that your company has priorities I haven’t mentioned here.

As you discover what those are, you can weigh them against the ideas listed here to create your own, more personalized approach to prioritizing your projects.

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