15 Time Management Tips for Writers

Many writers find time management at least a minor issue, while for others it may be a major issue, especially those who can never seem to find the time to write. The following tips may not completely get rid of all writing time management issues, but hopefully they will reduce the time management problems to a minimum.

  1. Track Your Time. If you find you simply have no idea where the time went on a consistent basis, then it's time to start tracking your time. Take a week or two to record how you spend your time from the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed. Use a spiral notebook, split into columns: left hand column for the start and end time, middle column for a brief description of each activity, and the right hand column for the amount of time to complete that activity. Record the day and date at the top of each page. Then go through the journal to determine where you can shave time off activities (or remove them from your routine) in order to create more time for writing.
  2. Set Goals. Goals give writers something to aim for. It could be a minimum word or paragraph count per day, a minimum word or page count per week, or a minimum article count per month. Meeting your goals will keep your writing progress moving forward.
  3. Set Aside Time Just for Research. Having to keep stopping to research facts that you do not know disrupts any writing schedule, cuts down on the available writing time, and distracts writers from their writing goals. Set aside a regular time to research the information you need to do your writing for the week. Then your writing time will be available for writing only.
  4. Double Duty Research. When researching for an article or any other piece of writing, research with multiple stories in mind – both fiction and nonfiction. Ask yourself this question: "How many stories, articles, or novels can this information be used for?" This means you'll be getting the maximum amount of writing time off a minimum amount of research time.
  5. Use Research Time to Brainstorm Other Ideas. Use older research to brainstorm as many new ideas as possible. Once you've created a list of titles for the week, go through all your previous research on similar topics, and use it to fill in some of the details under each topic. This will reduce some of the research you will need to perform.
  6. Re-Slant or Update an Old Article . Dig up some of your old articles and brainstorm some ways to rewrite them from a different angle or to update the information, both of which will require only a minimum of additional research. Since most of the writing has already been done, your writing time for these "new" articles will be reduced somewhat because you will only need to rework what's already been written.
  7. Making Use of Waiting Rooms – and Other Time Wasters. There are plenty of times when we have to wait in a doctor's waiting room, wait in the school pickup line for our kids to get out of school, wait for our kids at gymnastics practice. Rather than just sitting there boredly looking though old magazines or eavesdropping on other peoples' even more boring cell phone calls, take your writing with you, either on laptop or handwriting with pen and paper. Make use of that otherwise wasted time by turning it into writing time. One of the great things about writing is that it is portable.
  8. Keep Pen and Paper with You at All Times. This allows you to make notes on all the new ideas that pop into your brain at the weirdest times. Other times, you may find that your mind is wandering, thinking about something other than writing, when suddenly, the solution appears for that problem you've been having with a particular piece. Write it down right now, while you're thinking about it. Then get to work fixing the problem on your next writing session.
  9. Send Yourself E-Mails. This is the e-version of having a pen and paper available. While taking care of the other business of life while on the computer – you know, paying the bills, making appointments, setting up the carpooling schedule – or making calls on your smart phone, an idea strikes you about the pieces you are working on. Send yourself an email while you're thinking about it, and then go onto complete your daily life essential chores.
  10. Take Breaks. Many of us have been trained to believe that we need to stay at our desks, writing, even though our minds and bodies are screaming for a break. At such times, we are not work at our most efficient levels, and consequently the words we're putting down on the page are not our best. We need to take occasional breaks to recharge our batteries. It may just be to take a bathroom break so we are not operating from a place of discomfort. Or we may need to take a lunch or an exercise break to feed and rejuvenate our brains and bodies, so we're awake and alert when we come back to the writing desk.
  11. Eat Right. Eating a healthy diet keeps our writers' brains in good working order. Do not skip meals, above all breakfast, and eat healthy snacks if your brain and body need them. Cut down on the caffeine. Too much will make you jittery, not alert. Cut down or cut out the alcohol. It does not make you a better writer, it only makes you an alcoholic who wastes too much valuable writing time being drunk, or at least buzzed.
  12. Keep Your Writing To-Do Flexible. At times, writers find that the pieces they've decided to work on during their writing periods, just is not working for them that day. But another piece is calling to them. There's no law that says you have to stick with a writing schedule exactly as you've planned it out. Sometimes it's more efficient to write the piece that's coming easily too you, and save the more difficult piece for a day when it will be easier to write.
  13. Balance Your Work Load. "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." I heard that one on the "Willie Wonka" movie, the Gene Wilder version. This is a much longer version of the "Take Breaks" rule above. This one calls for you to take a day off, or even a week or two, to take yourself away from the writing desk for a while. It begs you to take your mind completely off writing and spend time with your family, doing fun stuff like going on picnics, going swimming at the beach, or taking in a movie and playing board games. The only rule is that you're not allowed to write or even think about writing. You're only allowed to have fun, to balance out the working.
  14. Learn When to Say "No". Some writing jobs are not worth our time because (a) they do not pay enough, (b) they will take so much of your writing time that you will not have time for other paying jobs , or (c) they will require too much time away from your family. Learn to say "no" to these projects, unless there's a very good reason to say "yes." Also, writers need to learn to say "no" to friends and family who insist on calling "just to chat" during their regular writing periods. There are many good books and articles with excellent suggestions for how to handle these writing time intrusions, politely. They are worth the time to research.
  15. Time Wasters. Among the many time management problems writers run into are those personal demons known as time waters. The top time wasters include: procrastination, spending too much time on unproductive "stuff" that does not help us with our writing or anything else, spending too much time organizing and re-organizing our writing spaces and our writing schedules to-do lists , watching TV, answering e-mails, reading the newspaper, answering phone calls, reading (books, newspapers, magazines) instead writing, allowing interruptions, and the ever popular surfing the web. By cutting out these time wasters, or cutting them down to an absolute, strict minimum, we'll make more time for writing.