Time Management Strategies for Student Writers

Is it me or do students often seem surprised by just how long the writing process takes? When I first started teaching, I never thought to address the issue of time management with my students. Over the course of my next several classes, however, I started to notice a pattern in students’ comments, such as: The work in this class is really, really time consuming; I’ve never spent this much time writing before; and I didn’t realize it would take SO much time but I am really happy with the end results.

If you have heard comments like these, you may want to take a direct approach to talking about time management. Tell students early in the course that writing is a time consuming process and a time commitment is unavoidable. Expect students to balk. Then remind them that they are in control of the exact time commitment, down to the minute. This relaxes a few. For the majority of students who have little experience employing time management strategies with their writing, here are three strategies to try.

1. Educate Students about Process – Just telling students that writing is a process may not be enough. Without the personal connection, the information does not have a lot of meaning. Start by having a discussion with your students about what the term “process” means; ask students to identify examples of “process” from their everyday lives, such as learning to cook or working on cars. Once students have a basic understanding of what process means to them, explain what the writing process means to you, including the recursive process of brainstorming, drafting, and revising. When everyone has a commonly held understanding of the expectations, it is easier to talk about the individual steps of writing as they relate to each student’s work.

2. Reduce-Reuse-Recycle Panic – When student writers feel overwhelmed, there is a tendency to panic. Panic often puts work at a dead halt. If students get too far behind in their writing, it can be difficult to catch up, which often creates more panic. To help reduce panic, gently remind students that it is a better use of their time to ask for clarification than to struggle. Show students how they can reuse those pangs of panic as positive motivators by providing student examples of the writing process. Encourage students to recycle energy spent worrying about writing into actual writing time by setting firm time limits.

3. Set Time Limits – Without firm time limits, student writers may feel overwhelmed. Hours can pass with little writing progress. Setting firm self-imposed time limits reminds students they are in control and forces greater focus onto the writing process. If a student knows they have three hours to work on an assignment, show them how to block time: 30 minutes for prewriting; 90 minutes for drafting; 40 minutes for revision; and 20 minutes for proofreading. Without the free time to panic, students often find their writing time is more efficient and their writing more dedicated and focused.

Lauren Shapiro, MS is an adjunct writing instructor at American College of Healthcare Sciences.