Writing Wednesdays: Advice on time management and writing goals

Do you struggle with managing your time when it comes to writing? Do you find writing goals useful? I share some of my thoughts on these things in this post.

Quite a lot of people have asked me for advice on how they can manage their time with writing, and how I juggle writing alongside studying, and they also ask me about writing goals – should you set yourself writing goals, and if you do, how on earth do you stick to them?

Prepare for a long post…

I will start with me, and my life of endless to-do lists.

I am one of those people who is likely to forget about things unless I write them down or get reminded about them. Since going to uni I even have to write ‘put a load of washing on’ on my to-do list, to make sure I get it done. A lot of my time management is down to the to-do list I always have on hand. I can look through it and prioritise what I need to do and what can be left for now, and it also stops me procrastinating when I can see in front of me exactly what I have to do. I also have an academic diary I use to help with time management. Something else that’s useful is the Todoist app for devices and desktop.

So as for time management when writing, there are a few things you can do to help you out.

If you’re at school and studying, or working, then recognise when you can write. It used to be (and often still is) that I do most of my writing in the evening and at night, because that’s when I had free time to myself. Look at your schedule and ask yourself when you have time to write. Sometimes, that can help take off some of the pressure. And don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re too busy one week to write – maybe you’ve got essays due in and finals, and it’s your dad’s birthday… Don’t be too strict with your writing schedule or it might backfire.

Prioritisation is very important, too.

If you’ve got a lot on, then maybe your writing needs to take a spot on the back burner, even if only for a day or two. If you have a lot of things to do and you’re too busy to write, that’s okay. Don’t push yourself too hard. If you’ve told yourself to write 500 words a day, but you’re really too run off your feet, then ask yourself if that writing goal is realistic. At the moment, it might not be.

2016 update: RE prioritising, I took the last year off writing and blogging and everything that wasn’t uni-related, because I knew I needed to focus on my final year of my degree. Sometimes, you just have to take a break if you have other important things on.

2017 update: Oh. My. God. I am terrible at taking my own advice. I've struggled so much with finding time to write.

Saying that, writing might well be something that relaxes you, so it can be worth setting aside a bit of time even when you’re very busy to sit down and write, if it helps you de-stress.

As for writing goals, it’s entirely up to you whether or not you want to set them. I know that some people say you should write a little bit each day. I like to write because I want to write, not because I feel I have to. And when I’ve been so busy at uni with studying, homework, finding time to eat and sleep and possibly socialise if I dare risk that valuable time, doing interviews and keeping up my social media, and working on my writing, sometimes I’ve felt like I don’t have the time to sit down and write for pleasure – so I don’t want to pressure myself to sit down and write because I’m telling myself I have to.

That said: at the time of writing this post, I’ve recently started going into Starbucks with my laptop. It gets me away from my studying environment (i.e. my desk) and I don’t feel guilty for not doing the pile of work next to me. It’s just me and writing.

If you want to set yourself writing goals (100 words a day, 1000 words a week, a chapter a week) then make sure that you choose something that suits you and that you feel comfortable with. Don’t push yourself too hard and set yourself a writing goal that you feel you can achieve. If you try to set yourself a goal you can’t hit, it’ll get you down when you can’t hit it, and you might just end up discouraging yourself from writing.

I find that it works well for me to put things on my to-do list. Even if it’s not a book I’m working on for publication. I’ll put down ‘hit 30,000 words’ if I’m at 26,852 words, so that I know I can hit that goal sometime soon, and I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something when I cross it off the list.

When I was working on Out of Tune (my third book) early in 2014, I was setting myself little goals. Like every 1,500 words, I’d go make a cup of tea. Every 2,000 words, I got a biscuit. Little rewards were motivating, and breaking a big task down into smaller ones made the whole thing seem much more achievable.

Figure out what works for you, and like I said: don’t be too strict with yourself, especially if you’re really busy and have other priorities. But don’t be too lenient with yourself either: try and prioritise and make the time to write. When it’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll find the time somewhere.

Do you set writing goals? How do you get on with them? Share in the comment section below!

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