Attending high school is hard. Writing as a serious hobby is even harder. When you combine the two of them, it becomes downright ridiculous. Are you studying Calculus and attempting to write the next Tolkien epic? You’re in the right place.
As teen writers, we have several aspects to our lives: our education, our families, and our writing. There are four main problems we face when we try to manage the three at once.
We lose track of time.
We suffer from burn-out.
We don’t get our work done.
Those are some big problems, so we need some big solutions. If we want to get stuff done, we need to manage our time. “Time management” is a complicated term, but in this post, we’ll break it down into a series of five steps.
Now that we’ve explained things, let’s look at the solutions.
Know Your Schedule
If you have to wash the dishes at five o’clock, don’t schedule your writing time for six. You’re not helping yourself by planning crazy, hectic weeks.
If your classes are getting intense, and you need more time to study, reschedule your flexible activities. For example, wake up half an hour earlier to write in the morning. It’s better than coffee. If your chores are a flexible activity, ask your parents if you can reschedule them. You can mow the lawn later in the evening, or dust the living room before breakfast.
Don’t be afraid to start a task at a different time each day, swap chores with your siblings, or wake up an hour earlier. Be creative with your schedule. You’re a writer. Creativity comes naturally to you.
I’ll be the first to admit it, staying mindful of your time is hard work. But, we can use a few tips and tricks to help ourselves out.
Once you’re aware of your schedule, you’ve gotta stick to your schedule. Set an alarm for the amount of time you can spend on a task, and when the alarm sounds off, quit. That’s right, quit. It doesn’t matter if you’re almost finished, or if you weren’t able to make progress. Quit, gosh darn it, and get on to the next task on your to-do list.
We do this because, when dealing with multiple projects, we have to keep working. If you aren’t making progress on one project, switch to another. If you’re in the middle of one project, keep working hard by tackling your next task.
Also, switching projects helps prevent burn-out. How discouraging is it to stare at a blank screen for hours at a time? Very discouraging.
So, stay mindful, switch projects, prevent burn-out, and keep busy.
Implement a Reward System
Maybe when you were younger, your parents would treat you with a reward if you brought home a good report card. Did the possibility of a reward make you work harder? Chances are, it did. So, why not give yourself a reward when you make progress on your tasks?
It’s an easy thing to do. First, make a list of cheap, easy, or fun things you enjoy, and then assign a task to that reward. For example, my reward list looks like this:
Write a blog post = Watch the evening news
Finish homework = 15 minutes crocheting
Write 1,000 words = 30 minutes of Internet use
Finish chores = grab a cookie
See? Easy as eating a slice of chocolate cake. (Which is a great idea for a reward.)
Some tasks can appear so daunting that it’s hard to get to work, and that’s why checklists are such a helpful tool. You can use checklists to break up complicated projects into smaller tasks, and it makes the project seem less threatening.
For example, say you had to write a research paper. We’d break down that monstrous project into bite-sized chunks, like this:
—Search and checkout books on topic
—Find topic angle
—Find “walkaway point”
—Find “connecting points”
—Find “supporting points”
—Outline topic sentences for each paragraph
—Write first page
—Write second page
—Write third page
Write Bibliography/Citation Page
—List all research quoted in paper
—Check page for accuracy
—Edit for extraneous content
—Edit for “purple prose”
—Edit for spelling and punctuation
—Edit for final copy
Hand in paper
That’s an example of how powerful checklists can be. You can see how we broke down that huge project of writing a research paper into little tasks. It makes the ordeal more manageable, doesn’t it?
Know How You Spend Your Time
When you’re not getting your work done, knowing how you spend your time is a great way to remedy the problem. Once you know where all that time goes, you can get a handle on any procrastination.
To track your time, I suggest a program like RescueTime. It tracks how you spend your time on the Internet and your desktop. Once you’ve spent a week with the program, the software will send a report to your inbox on how you spent your time during the week. It’s a helpful productivity tool.
Let’s say you got your weekly report. You found out you spend most of your time on social media. Well, that’s a problem. But, now we have that information, and we can use it to our advantage. Most, if not all, of social media is online-based. So, just shut off the Internet. If you use mobile devices that have Internet access, stash them in another room to avoid temptation.
Or, you could just grab your work and head outdoors.
So, we’ve noted a few problems, proposed a few solutions, and got down to the nitty-gritty of time management. Now, get writing!
But first, tell me, how do you manage your time? Do you struggle with slipping time for writing into your day?
Abigail Post is a seventeen-year-old fantasy writer with four novels stuffed underneath her bed. She is a freelance writer, blogger, author, and editor. Her short stories have appeared on the website of Teen Ink, and she is a compulsive writing contest-enterer. When she can't bother her cats, she's tinkering with her fountain pens, or planning to toss her next book in the fireplace.
You can find her at WritingAbby.wordpress.com, or stalking her favorite authors on Twitter.