Busy? Break Your Writing Projects Into Small Chunks

I have a confession: this blog has been going strong for 3+ years and lately, because the other editor (Mel) and I have been really, really busy, we haven’t been posting nearly as often as we used to.

That’s because writing takes time, and with her new gig as a publisher (everyone say CONGRATULATIONS to her, by the way) and my 5-6 academic jobs (and I’m not exaggerating there!), we’re fairly low on time between the two of us.

Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and - wait, I don't have time to write poetry!
Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and – wait, I don’t have time to write poetry!

Today I was helping a student plot out a large paper assignment and the advice I gave him is the advice I need to follow myself and that I recommend anyone without a lot of time and a penchant for writing follow: break down your writing assignment into small, digestible chunks you can finish in about a half-hour every night.

I know that sounds pretty easy, but being able to judge your own ability to get a task done isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Here are a few tips that’ll help make the process easier.

1. Planning should be sessions 1-3, at the least. Planning takes time, and sometimes people feel that if they aren’t at a keyboard typing, they aren’t getting any work done and that simply isn’t true. You’re going to need to start planning before you can really start doing anything else. In session 1 you should try to be honest with yourself about how much work you can get done in a half-hour (or whatever time frame you’ve given yourself) sized chunk of time. For example, I might say if I’m working on a short story, I would first plot out when I’d work on character development, then when I’d work on plot points (both major and minor), and finally on the style in which I’d develop the story. After planning these things out over 1-3 (maybe 4) sessions, I’d then start executing my planned points in session 4 or 5.

2. Plan a stopping point and accept that stopping point. Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away once you get into “the zone,” but if you’re limited on time, that means your writing could be cutting into sleep time, interpersonal relationships, work, and/or school. So plan a stopping point. Say to yourself, “Self, once I figure out my character’s favorite food, color, and Beatles song, I’m going to hit the hay” and then do just that. This way, your work feels complete and at a point you can pick it up on the next night and keep going.

3. Forgive yourself if you fall off track, or if you can’t get everything you’ve planned done in one session, and pick up again whenever you can. Because, you know what, you’re busy! We’re all busy. If you’re using this for a thesis or work related project, then maybe plan some down time between sessions and take a day or two off so you don’t fall behind on something you’re being graded on or paid for. Even if you aren’t doing this for work or school, you can still plan some time off if you have other things that demand your time. One really great thing about breaking your work down like this and plotting it out is that it’s easy to pick up again where you left off.

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