Clock ticks to symbolize time management

Time Management and Writing: How Much Can We Plan?

Clock ticks to symbolize time management

Time Management, Writing, and Balance. Photo: Alan Cleaver, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr.

This morning I was reading discussions on LinkedIn and came across a post about time management tips for writing essays. It was full of good points, including making a schedule and taking time to do research before you begin to write the essay. That’s the link above, in case you want to read it. I started thinking about the post though and made a comment that some of you might find interesting.

Here is what I wrote on the LinkedIn discussion page:

Also, allow extra time for anything unforeseen that may happen (family member gets sick, last-minute project, etc.)

Here’s the thing aboutΒ writing, at least from my experience. It’s all well and good to plan out your time management techniques for a project, such as writing an essay, but can you prepare for everything? It is inevitable that things pop up. C’est la vie and all that. There’s the flu bug, the last-minute deadline you didn’t see coming and the time you overslept by two hours. Yes, what you can expect is… the unexpected happens.

As well, time management and writing don’t always play well together. Especially when it comes to creative writing. I can’t always sit down and write a poem. Why? I’m not always full of ideas. So I might head to Pinterest as I did recently to get inspiration for my poem A Hunger For. But, it’s certainly not a guarantee that I will write something I am content with to publish. On the other hand, I can plan out on my calendarΒ the business blog posts I need to write within the next three days and the other deadlines.

What I have found helpful in freelance writing for time management is to allow more time to complete tasks than I think I may need. For example, I recently told a client that I would need seven days to complete a project for his site. What IΒ factored into the deadline that I proposed to him was how many hours it would take me, the other projects I was balancing that week and two extra days on top of that. He accepted my proposal and the project began.

Yes, did you catch that? I allowed for two days of mayhem. That’s two days more than what I thought I needed to do the project well. What happened in the end? I finished the project one day ahead of schedule. The client was happy as the work was done early, and I was not under the stress of a last-minute deadline. Also, note that it took one extra day than I had planned because another project came last-minute. So, allowing extra time is something I try to do, when possible, if it is not a rush project.

Do you find time management in your writing day is easy to organize?
 
 

Β©2015 Christy Birmingham

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134 thoughts on “Time Management and Writing: How Much Can We Plan?

  1. Janine Huldie

    Christy, this makes perfect sense as in when I write just for me and what I may be feeling in the moment, I cannot plan for that whatsoever, but when I am writing for a client or sponsored content that I usually try to plan ahead a bit for as to how long it will take me to do the research and leg work on the actual research portion of this. So, in essence I do truly agree with you on this.

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  2. Jane Carroll

    All of my writing is creative in nature…and I’m not one to have much of a set schedule. Although I try to blog every morning, sometimes there just isn’t a blog in there. One day I wrote one and left it sitting on my computer for a week before I posted it. I’m never sure why that happens.

    All that said…I like you point of adding additional time for a project…it allows time for my muse to take a vacation and get back in town before the deadline.

    Thanks!

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        1. dr sweetyshinde

          Honestly! It makes me wonder if I should bunk all my well planned posts and instead rely on last minute spurts of ideas to deliver the goods.
          I mean, I can never understand how writers set a goal of 500 words per day – b’cos words refuse to come at our beck and call.

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        2. Christy Birmingham Post author

          Why not try a combination of planned posts and spur-of-the-moment ones… That way if one of the last-minute posts falls flat on its face (I have those ones!) you always have the pre-planned ones to use. Just a thought. Hope you have a nice Friday!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Christy Birmingham Post author

          Me too. I have drafts on my dashboard here, papers of notes and all sorts of stuff in my head, hehe. By the way, did you notice the change to the way the notifications look here? Woah!

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        4. Christy Birmingham Post author

          Ah, it’s likely with my WP theme I use or my browser then. The update came to me and makes the comments look different when I click the “bell” icon in the top right corner of the dashboard. Interesting!

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  3. balroop2013

    I feel creative writing can never be fettered, it flows at will, it doesn’t care about any time. Some of my poems have been written with a sudden flash of an idea, in the middle of the night but some of them keep hanging for many days. At least there is something, which time cannot govern!

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  4. Cyan Ryan

    I am still learning time management with my creative writing, putting more effort into researching things so my writing will have more depth, and not be so sourced from personal experience. I’m finding I enjoy it more. It leads to less time writing, but I believe to more refined writing. Of course if I do ever become a freelance writer, I will have to learn to be much more organized, but I suppose that is still a long ways off. I will surely learn more about it once I am in school again, as I am learning some more about it from your posts like this one. Good write, informative on the life of an actual freelance writer. I’m glad our paths have crossed, not just in friendship, but also in opening my eyes some to the life of freelance writing!

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  5. Green Embers

    On a not writing focus, but curious as to what it is you do for your job. It sounds like you’re self employed or work for a smaller company. I completely agree setting aside extra time is key for projects (it really really is).

    As for myself, I tried to schedule out my creative endeavors and it didn’t work because it felt too much like work. However with anything to get better you need to practice, so I need to figure out a way to make practicing less drudgery like.

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    1. Christy Birmingham Post author

      Thanks for the feedback here and I hope you find a system for creative writing that works with your schedule and feels less like work to you so you’ll stay motivated πŸ™‚ For work, I am self-employed as a writer. I work with clients around the world. I love it!

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      Reply
        1. Christy Birmingham Post author

          It’s all sorts of writing topics, from business to health. Well, the secret is to figure out what you like doing, what you do well and what you make money doing – find ‘the’ thing that applies to all three of those areas and you’re a star! πŸ™‚

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  6. Maria F.

    At least for the writing, I have found the “notes” app from the iPhone useful (Androids have the same) because I have found “portability” to be a life saver in terms of having the immediate means to write down whatever comes to mind vs. not “finding the time” to do it. The phone is smaller, and I carry it everywhere, so if something I feel must be written throughout day, I use the phone.

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  7. Heartafire

    using the phone is a great idea. I love your article, Christy, in this hectic world I image most of us have some management issues, the main issue for a writer of poetry or prose is inspiration, it comes and goes and when it goes there is that feeling of anxiety for me, I wonder if I am the only one who gets that edgy feeling when blocked. thank you for this very helpful text! Enjoyed it very much.

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  8. C. E. Robinson

    I like that Christy, allow for two days of mayhem! I’m finding “mayhem” too often, but it means not life mayhem, but the writing one! Unexpected writing projects surface and then there’s that wake-up, early morning blog idea that must be written! I marvel at how you keep up with all of your writing projects and find time to continue writing great posts. Christine

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  9. rollyachabotbooks

    Wonderful you were able to meet your deadline on time Christy, I am certain you are diligent in all the tasks you take on. For me as a fiction writer I find the answer to be in setting goals of approximately 3000 words per day. The following morning I run through and edit what I have written the day before. If I have a challenge it is to keep the flow of the story without getting stuck. Of course there is always the long walks with Quigley that take time as well but we do need to look after feeding ourselves with fresh air… Smiles

    Hugs
    Rolly

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    1. Christy Birmingham Post author

      I do my best, Rolly, I do my best. That is all we can do… Ah yes you are rocking the fiction writing world with 3,000 words a day! Well done. I am glad that Quigley helps you with the inspiration too!

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  10. Billybuc

    Honestly, I have no problem with time management. Haven’t in three years. You made a very valid point about creativity, especially with poetry. If it isn’t there then all the time management in the world won’t help you. πŸ™‚

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  11. Jay

    Time management and I are not friends. Creative writing can’t really be managed, but to be a serious writer you do need to be disciplined and you do need to set aside regular hours to work on your craft. It’s not easy to do that, not easy at all!

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  12. Espirational

    I can’t sit down and force myself to write or work on my art. It just doesn’t happen that way for me. I have to hope that when inspiration hits I can either drop everything and go with it or at least take a few good notes. Fortunately I am in a situation right now where I usually can drop everything, but realize not everyone can do this.

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  13. ghostwritingplus

    Christy, I completely agree with you about adding extra time for anything unforeseen, especially when giving clients time estimates. If you think something will take you a week to complete, double it when you’re quoting the client. If the job ends up taking you a week and a half to finish, you will still be able to submit the piece within schedule.

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  14. A.K.Andrew @artyyah

    Writing and time management in the same sentence makes me laugh. Especially creative writing, because things just don’t go according to plan. Your decision to give an extra two days was both wise and realistic. Sounds like he won out in hiring you. We can plan, but we certainly can’t hold our breath:-)

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  15. Raymond Alexander Kukkee

    I find ‘time management’ is a fine idea but often actually counter-productive because of Murphy’s law, “if it can happen it will” –and does. There’s the added problem of fitting an idea into a schedule, pruned, sliced and diced. How to do it becomes problematic, and ‘once it goes astray it gets away’ . To self-impose a deadline for a paragraph results in lower-quality writing. Perhaps “Plan for the man, but not for the muse’ seems like a better idea for me personally Christyb “:) Many smiles to you, smiles promote creativity “:)

    Liked by 1 person

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      1. markbialczak

        When it’s paying gigs and tight deadlines, it most certainly does, Christy. When I was the music critic for the big daily here, sometimes I had 30 minutes to write 500 words or face a big white space on my front doorstep the next morning. Fear, yes.

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  16. Jack Flacco

    Time is my greatest ally. I never use to be able to say that since I’ve struggled in the past with time management. You could have called me a massive procrastinator. Nowadays, though, I manage my time well with a few techniques I had to figure out on my own. And for everyone it’s different. My biggest time management trick is taking one day for myself and regroup. No writing. No online stuff. Just ME time. It’s proven to spike my creativity over the past few years and moved me to do other things besides sitting in a room all day and stare at the screen!

    Great post, Christy (just realized you’re a fellow Canuck! πŸ˜‰ )

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Raymond Alexander Kukkee

      Regroup, always regroup and use the time to recognize how important it is to let the manuscript collect dust for a few days, weeks, or even months. Plan something else meantime by default. That may be the best part of time management.

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    2. Christy Birmingham Post author

      Hi Jack,
      Great that you found a strategy that works for you. Having that day to yourself, away from the online world, sounds wonderful. Can you say PJ’s time?!! (Okay that’s just me, hehe). What, you’re a Canuck too?! I’m in BC. Which province are you in? πŸ™‚

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  17. Aquileana

    We can’t stop time… Such a fleeting thing indeed!… And yet we can still try to manage it in many reasonable ways.~ Thanks for the tips above: A really accurate post dear Christy. Best wishes to you, B2…. Aquileana πŸ˜€

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    1. Christy Birmingham Post author

      Hi Aqui, So nice to see you here – thank you for making time! Ohhh you came here after having a nice talk with your BGP, I see πŸ™‚ Boy, she is lucky to have you in her life xo Many hugs and if we could stop time for a moment I would like to say how wonderful you are! Okay, there, I said it! ❀

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  18. Poetsmith

    Yes, time is the main factor, as to how much time we set aside for our creative writing! It all depends on our work or personal commitments… Indeed this post is an interesting read, Christy πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing. All the best in your work and writing… Iris πŸ™‚

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  19. Carrie Rubin

    Love the idea of adding “days of mayhem” to our timeline. For me, in terms of novel writing, I break my goals up into month-long frames. Maybe I’ll have to tack on a few weeks for “weeks of mayhem.” πŸ™‚

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Much appreciated.

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  20. Sue Dreamwalker

    Wonderful tips to follow.. “Do you find time management in your writing day is easy to organize?”…. Well Christy put it this way.. I Came onto my blog 2 hours ago.. intending to write a new post.. I am still visiting others LOL.. so maybe I need to Time Manage a little better!! πŸ™‚ ❀ xxx Big Hugs xxxxx Sue

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  21. totsymae1011

    Managing time is everything. I’ve decided to be the weekend writer. I figure that’s a better way to maximize the time to get the work done without distractions during the week.

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  22. Inion N. Mathair

    Hi Christy: We are new to your blog having met you on ours. Love the post and so very true. Time management where writing is concerned is a hard thing to balance. For us, our art does not support us yet. So holding down two jobs each plus our writing….well, it’s crazy hours and squeezing our writing in between shifts. lol πŸ˜‰ Poetry is the one aspect of our writing that humbles us. We don’t write poetry unless we are moved by something. Therefore if we feel moved, we do whatever it takes to get the idea down immediately and at all costs then sometime later we find time to work on it. I think time management is probably one of the hardest things for writers to handle. Excellent post my dear, sharing now!! πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Christy Birmingham Post author

      Thank you for the wonderful comment and for the share too! It’s so nice you found me here too after that comment I left on your site. You are truly motivating to both be working and then fitting writing into your day when you can. That certainly takes organization. Keep it up as I like your site!!

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  23. Heena Rathore P.

    I used to plan a lot, but most of the time the planning failed! lol! So I just left it… now I just write on impulse alone. Some days I write the entire day but sometimes I don’t write for a week!

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  24. Elouise

    Wonderful post and comments above! It’s nice to be retired–so here’s how it looks from that point of view.

    Writing is a privilege. Especially personal writing. I’ve kept a lot of ideas inside for a long time–often jotting them down, but more likely entering them in journals. Sometimes it feels as though they’re competing to get out at the same time!

    Nonetheless, it isn’t easy. Very personal, difficult pieces take time (for me). Time to write them out ‘splat’ on the page–unguarded language and tone. Then time to figure out what to do with any of that. How can I make them true while not harming or naming persons involved. Keeping the focus on me. I don’t know how to schedule this kind of writing. When it’s ready, it’s ready.

    As for poetry, it comes a bit easier. Partly because I write in free verse. But also because I’ve been using a one-a-day haiku exercise for a while. The inspiration is out there. I try to keep myself open to what it is. Sometimes the haiku leads to a little free verse. And yes, there are always great photos for inspiration and to jog my memory!

    When all else fails, I write about whatever I’m feeling/going through at the moment. The freedom to write this way makes me happy! My professional life (in academia) was packed with deadline writing. I did it. I rarely missed a deadline. Not very joyful, sometimes. But I did it.

    Elouise

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    1. Christy Birmingham Post author

      Elouise,
      How lovely that you came here too! Kindness = you πŸ™‚ I enjoyed your comment very much. It certainly is a matter of different methods for different styles of writing, which is part of what you explain here. The haiku-a-day sounds great too – it’s a way to stay creative and you never know what might come into those 3 lines! I have a writing career so totally understand what you mean about deadline writing. Luckily we have our poetry to play with πŸ™‚ By the way, I love that you read through the comments here as reading them is one of my favorite parts of blogging!

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  25. Andrea Stephenson

    I find that I’m very good at time management in my day job because I have to be, whereas in my writing, because it’s not something I ‘have’ to do, things can tend to go off track much more easily – and as you say, I’m not always in the mood for a certain type of writing. I do plan though and my blog gives me a framework for writing to deadlines, should I ever need that in the future πŸ™‚

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    1. Christy Birmingham Post author

      Hi Andrea, thanks for the comment here. True that job demands do keep us in line with deadlines. As for the mood of today, it seems to be all about blog reading and commenting, which is fine with me πŸ™‚ I hope you are doing well!

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  26. macjam47

    Time management? Well, it doesn’t always work out like reading Tuesday’s posts on Saturday! Having a retired husband at home pretty much blows most plans for time management.

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  27. kyrahalland

    Great post πŸ™‚ I try to manage my time; I find I’m more productive – and the ideas flow better – when I keep to a regular schedule. My challenge is that with chronic fatigue syndrome, I never know from day to day how much mental and physical energy I’m going to have. Just when I think I’m getting a feel for it and settling into a routine, something happens to knock me off my feet for a couple of days or weeks. But even on those days, I have a minimum amount I try to do to keep myself on track.

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    1. Christy Birmingham Post author

      Hi Kyra, I am glad you have those minimum levels you set for yourself as I think that helps for motivation. I think your posts are great so we appreciate whenever you feel up for posting and totally understand when you can’t. Thanks for the visit!

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  28. Pingback: Awesome Applies to the Blogging World Too | Poetic Parfait

  29. cav12

    I do try to keep a regular schedule though when things happen that cannot be ignored, the writing has to take a back seat. Trying to write around work is hard enough when family issues are thrown into the mix!
    Nevertheless, challenges are good and how we tackle them is the key.

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  30. Pingback: To Writers Who Struggle with Self-Compassion #1000Speak | Poetic Parfait

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