time management for writers

“The key to not feeling rushed is remembering that lack of time is actually lack of priorities.”

– Timothy Ferriss, author of the New York Times Bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek.

To a certain degree, writers can be thought of as entrepreneurs. You’re ultimately running your own “business” and taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. Therefore, the same time-management tips apply for writers as for someone running a small business.

Work smarter, not harder

Instead of being robotic in how you approach tasks, try to be thoughtful and always ask yourself if something can be done more efficiently or eliminated altogether.

Managing your time isn’t about squeezing as many tasks as possible into a day. It’s about simplifying how you work, doing things faster and relieving stress.

It’s about clearing away space in your life to make time for people, play and rest.

I promise you — there really are enough hours in a day for everything you’d like to do, but it may take a bit of rearranging and re-imagining to find them.

Here’s how.

1. Complete most important tasks first.

This is the golden rule of time management. Each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to complete and do those first. If you need to do extensive research on a topic for your piece, get that out of the way first.

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information you can go through it with a fine-toothed comb and separate the essential from the “good to know”.

2. Sleep at least 7-8 hours.

Some people think sacrificing sleep is a good way to optimize productivity and wring a couple extra hours out of the day. This is not the case.

Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep for their bodies and minds to function optimally. You know if you’re getting enough. Listen to your body, and don’t underestimate the value of sleep.

3. Get an early start.

Nearly all of us are plagued by the impulse to procrastinate. It seems so easy, and you always manage to get it done eventually, so why not?

Take it from a recovering chronic procrastinator — it’s much less stressful to get an earlier start on something. It isn’t that difficult either if you firmly decide to do it.

4. Don’t allow unimportant details to drag you down.

We often allow projects to take much, much longer than they could by getting too hung up on small details. I’m guilty of this. I’ve always been a perfectionist.

You’re much better off pressing onward, getting the bulk completed, and revising things afterwards.

5. Enjoyment should always be the goal. Work can be play.

We get so caught up in busyness that we forget to enjoy what we’re doing. Even when we focus on working smarter, we’re still often too focused on getting things done. This should never be the point. Always ask yourself: What can I do to spend more time enjoying what I’m doing?

The research you’re doing for a piece is a great way to expand your knowledge on the topic at hand, take advantage of that.

As Anthony Robbins, well-known life coach, self-help author and motivational speaker says: “Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year — and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”

About the Author

Cara Versfeld, student at SA Writers' College

Cara Versfeld is a freelance writer who works in sales and lives in Cape Town. When Cara’s not working or writing, she enjoys reading inspirational books by authors like Paulo Coelho and Joel Osteen. True to her Cape Town roots, Cara loves spending time at the beach. Some of her other interests include perfecting her Sun Salutation sequence and baking the perfect red velvet cake.

Cara completed the Magazine Journalism Course at SA Writers’ College.