Time is NOT relative: Learn to prioritize, schedule, and map out your writing projects

Written by: Writing Assistant Amy Beasley

Quality writing doesn’t happen overnight. Literally! Essays that are written in a sleep-deprived haze the night before they’re due typically aren’t the papers that receive great scores. Why? Writing is a process. It’s a process that takes time.

Personally, I try to at least start brainstorming for an essay about a week before it’s due. This way, if I get stuck, I know I’ll have plenty of time to either 1) come up with some other great idea or 2) get some help. A week before the due date is also when I try to schedule an appointment at The Writing Center. Wait … what? I’m a Writing Assistant at the center. Yes, I still use it … even though I’m pretty confident in my writing skills. I pay tuition, so I pay for the Writing Center services. So … I’d be crazy not to use it!

Another thing that I find incredibly helpful when an assignment is making me anxious is putting in some serious planning time. Depending on how big the assignment is (or how “Type A” you are!), the plan/strategy can be as generic or as detailed as you want. I usually try to use the chunking method when I plan for completing assignments. I take out my planner (which is just a notebook) and pick a few days out of the week to sit and spend an hour or two focused on completing one assignment. This way, I force myself to sit and concentrate for enough time that I can actually get something done.

Here are some ideas for how you can make a plan:

Checklists: Draw a small square on the first line of a sheet of notepaper and, after it, write a small goal for yourself. I like taking baby steps. For example, after one box, I’ll write “gather research articles on topic,” followed by, “make outline,” and, “draft intro paragraph,” etc. Basically, whatever makes the most logical sense to you to get the job done. Plus, there’s the positive reinforcement that comes from being able to check off each box when you’re done with that step!

Online Organizing Sheets: Doing a quick Google search for “organizing templates” will get you quite far, surprisingly. Organization has become a new art form with all of the fancy planners and organizers out there. Rather than paying $50 for a fancy planner, you can find some pretty nice free printouts online! I really like the ones by Day Designer because they have space for checklists, plus they outline your entire day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In a way, it forces you to plan out your day to be the most productive!

Google Calendar: I use the Google Calendar on my Hope email to create events to remind me of important due dates for assignments. I like it because it sends notifications to my phone, and I have no excuse to not work on urgent things! You can set reminders for a day, days, or even a week in advance to keep you on top of your school work.

Planning out school work not only makes sure you turn things in on time, it also helps take away some of the pressure! Starting your plan well before the assignment is due will give you the best results, in my experience. Don’t be discouraged if your plan doesn’t go, well, quite as planned, though! Life happens and sometimes plans change. That’s okay! By starting your assignment with plenty of time to spare, you can usually adjust your plan around the hiccups and be just fine. Just don’t wait until the night before. (;