Though sometimes it may seem like your instructors don’t realize it, there is more to life than writing essays for class. Students have families, jobs, social lives, and hobbies— all of which compete with schoolwork for their time.
This is why time management is a skill that is essential to your success as a writer both inside and outside the classroom. You need to budget enough time to spend on all the things that are worth it, and mapping your life out will make its challenges easier to navigate. Additionally, time management will allow you to execute all of the steps of the writing process thoroughly in order to end up with the best final product that you can.
If the task of finding enough time for all of your writing assignments - and finding a healthy balance between your other commitments - seems daunting or even overwhelming, remember that everyone is dealing with these issues to some degree. That’s why the first step to success is reflecting on your situation and devising a plan. This will help you to prioritize the demands on your time, eliminating those activities that are not a good use of your time and devising a plan to budget your time for those that are. By using your time efficiently, you will improve your productivity and have more time in your personal and professional life.
A time-waster is something you do instead of, or in order to avoid, the work you could be doing. This does not mean that you need to eliminate everything fun or relaxing from your day; in fact, making time for having fun and relaxing can be crucial to maximizing your productivity and efficiency.
The key is that these things - scrolling through social media, taking a nap, going for a walk - do not impinge on the time you have set aside for writing. Though your tablet or smartphone offers you plenty of distractions, technology is not the enemy here. If you can go about your work with a little bit of self-discipline and manage your time efficiently, you will find you have more time to spend however you like.
So, what does minimizing time-wasters look like?
If social media is the primary temptation that distracts you from your work, you might try to keep your phone away from your writing space during the time you are working in order to better concentrate on what’s in front of you. Then, when you’re finished, you and your phone will be reunited.
A more flexible strategy could also be effective: Maybe you write best in short bursts, so you schedule intermittent breaks for scrolling through social media and giving your brain a rest. Again, the most important thing is to zero in on a plan that works best for you.
Now it’s time to learn some strategies for managing your writing time. Remember that none of these methods and strategies for time management is going to do your writing for you; you’re still going to have to focus and execute your plan.
But the value of having a thoughtful, customized time management plan is that it puts you in the best position to succeed, not only by organizing your time, but by helping you approach your writing with a sense of confidence and control over your destiny.
Productivity: Skill Reflect
3a. Creating a Prioritization Matrix
A helpful way to organize your work by priority is to create a prioritization matrix. This is a kind of chart that allows you to sort your tasks by their degree of urgency and importance.
Any writing you have due in the next few days is urgent, but an assignment worth 25% of your grade is more important than an ungraded assignment. Of course, you’re going to complete both assignments, but you want to give more time to the more important one.
On the other hand, browsing for shoes on the Internet is neither urgent nor important (at least in terms of accomplishing your writing goals). Things like getting more exercise or studying for a test that is months away are important, but not urgent— that is, you don’t need to be doing them now.
|High Urgency||Low Urgency|
|High Importance||Top priorities: Do these now!||Do these things second!|
|Low Importance||Consider if these things are worth doing when you are less busy.||Don’t do these things; they are time-wasters.|
You might find the idea of making a to-do list intimidating because all the work that lies ahead of you will pile up right in front of your eyes, and the sheer scope of it all has the potential to stress you out.
But just imagine how much more stressful it would be if you put this off and wait until due dates are rapidly approaching to attend to your workload. Being organized and prepared for the road ahead will improve your mental health in the long term.
A helpful tip for writing a to-do list is to be specific and break down an assignment into component parts that represent tasks that are doable in one or a couple of sittings.
EXAMPLEIf your to-do list says “Write paper,” this is not very instructive in terms of what specifically you need to do. Instead, perhaps the list says “Brainstorm topics for paper” and then “Outline paper,” etc. This is a more effective way to organize and estimate your time.
3c. Using a Calendar
If you’ve listed and prioritized your work, it is then helpful to determine when you are going to set aside time for individual tasks and plug them into a calendar.
Organizing your time in this manner gives shape and focus to the days, weeks, and months ahead of you. If you have the discipline to stick to and execute your plan, you’ll put yourself in a position to succeed in both the short and long term.
At the same time, the ability to adapt and be flexible is also important— if you find your schedule has become an obstacle to your success, reconsider and adjust your plan as necessary.