How to stay productive and beat procrastination

The art of time management for writers: How to stay productive and beat procrastination

If writing can be taught – and we know it can be – then so can time management! Learn how to best eliminate distractions with our top tips and tricks.

Asia Pesaro

Writing is a passion that requires discipline, dedication, and focus – but as a writer, it can be challenging to stay on track and avoid procrastination. Time management is crucial for writers busy juggling multiple projects and deadlines. 

We understand that writing is both an art form and a teachable skill, and time management is no different, so let us explore the secrets of successful organisational tips, tricks and proven strategies – specifically tailored for writers of varying skill and experience levels – that are as practical as they are easy to learn and implement, helping you to transform your writing process and take your productivity another step further. 

From setting realistic goals and prioritising the right tasks, all the way to creating a conducive writing environment, we’re sure we’ll find a way to help you beat procrastination and overcome writer’s block – so whether you’re a beginner, a professional, or somewhere in between, let this article be your ultimate guide to achieving whatever success means to you.


Why even is time management important for writers?

Time management isn’t just about getting things done – it’s about getting the right things done. As a writer, your time is your most valuable asset and using it wisely is key for achieving your goals within your ideal deadlines. Proper time management can help you:

  • Stay organised and on track
  • Prioritise your most important tasks and projects
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Avoid burnout and procrastination
  • Improve productivity and creativity.

When you manage your time effectively, you’re essentially creating a writing routine that works for you and this not only helps refocus your vision as a writer – always a positive – but also develops your wider sense of discipline, too. 


What’re the most common time management mistakes that writers make?

Refreshing the basics is never a bad idea. Nobody’s perfect and small fallbacks are unavoidable, but those sorts of mistakes tend to add up – before we dive into any specific strategies and techniques, let’s look at some common mistakes that writers make first:

  1. Failing to prioritise. Many writers try (and ultimately fail) to tackle too many tasks at once, leading to confusion, becoming overwhelmed and ending in a lack of progress.
  2. Procrastination. Everybody falls victim to procrastination every once in a while, and writers are no different, especially when faced with particularly daunting tasks.
  3. Failing to set clear goals. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the prize if you can’t even see the prize in the first place. Without clear goals, it’s hard to know what you should be working on and even harder to measure your progress.
  4. Relying on multitasking. Always tempting yet rarely effective, trying to do too many things at once can lead to mistakes, stress and burnout, especially if you’re attempting to juggle very different tasks.
  5. Getting distracted by, well, distractions. Whether it’s social media and email notifications, real life drama, or just the vague lure of the internet, everybody has their kryptonite – all sorts of distractions can derail your creative process and waste valuable writing time.

Great! Now that we’ve faced the reality of these common mistakes, we can begin to take the necessary steps to avoid them. Let’s move on to our most effective time management techniques… 


The Pomodoro Method – perfect for avoiding burnout

One of the most popular time management strategies out there is dubbed the Pomodoro Method: a technique that involves breaking up your workday into focused, 25-minute intervals, interrupted by short and controlled breaks. Here’s how it works:

  1. Select the task you want to work on
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task until the timer goes off
  4. Take a short break (suggested 5-10 minutes) – work on something more relaxed, make yourself a fresh coffee, or even take a (quick!) phone break if you absolutely can’t resist the scrolling
  5. Repeat the process four times, aka four ‘Pomodoro’ cycles, and then reward yourself by taking a longer break (suggested 15-30 minutes) – make yourself another fresh coffee, or even take a (comparatively longer) phone break.

The Pomodoro Method keeps you staying productive for longer by mitigating burnout and fatigue; by breaking your workday up into manageable chunks, you can make steady progress on your writing projects without getting as tired or overwhelmed.


The Eisenhower Matrix – perfect for those who struggle with prioritisation

This matrix consists of a simple, four-quadrant system, focused on helping you organise your tasks based on their importance and urgency. Here’s how it works:

  1. Get a piece of paper and divide it into four quadrants.
  2. Label the quadrants as follows: 
  3. Urgent and Important
  4. Important but Not Urgent
  5. Urgent but Not Important
  6. Not Urgent and Not Important.
  7. List tasks in each quadrant based on their (relative) urgency and importance.
  8. Focus on completing tasks in quadrant A, ‘Urgent and Important’, before moving on to the other quadrants as needed – note that the order of B and C can be switched around based on just how urgent/important your specific deadlines are.

The Eisenhower Matrix keeps you focused on the tasks that matter most by helping you avoid getting side-tracked by less essential deadlines.


The importance of setting realistic goals and deadlines

Setting clear goals and realistic deadlines is essential for effective time management. Remember what it says above: it’s hard to keep your eyes on the prize if you can’t even see the prize in the first place. Without clear goals, it’s hard to know what you should be working on, and even harder to measure your progress; without realistic deadlines, it’s easy to let tasks drag on indefinitely. 

Here are our top tips and tricks for keeping yourself motivated and establishing your own expectations:

  1. Break big goals into smaller milestones. Two words are key here: specificity and measurability. Instead of saying ‘I want to write a book’, which is big, vague, and overwhelming, try telling yourself ‘I’m going to write 500 words a day for the next 10 days’. This is not only much more manageable, making it easier to track your progress, but also more achievable – which leads us to…
  2. Be hopeful, but not naïve. It’s good to challenge yourself, but it’s also good to give yourself opportunity to succeed. Success means you can (and should!) reward yourself – which leads us to…
  3. Engage in positive reinforcement. Celebrate your achievements! When you reach a milestone or finish a project, allow yourself to breathe and take the time to acknowledge your hard work. Who doesn’t love a good pat on the back?

By setting clear goals and realistic deadlines, you’re more likely to stay motivated and remain focused and thus make steady progress on your writing projects.


Managing Distractions

Social media, email notifications, the vague lure of the internet: all of these are common online distractions that can clutter your screen, derail your creative process and ultimately waste a lot of valuable writing time. 

Here are our top tips for alleviating distractions:

  1. Turn off notifications. Be honest – the world (probably) won’t end if you miss a couple of updates.  
  2. Look into blocking apps. There are so many online resources that can block distracting websites, notifications and pop-up ads for you – check out our list of recommendations, curated specifically by and for writers, for more options. 
  3. Create a writing routine. Establishing a regular routine trains your brain to focus on staying productive during specific times of the day – check out our Creativity for Writers and Jumpstart Your Novel courses if you’re interested in building healthy habits that work but are stuck on where to start.
  4. Find your quiet place. If online distractions aren’t your main problem but real ones are, consider switching up your location and try writing in a quiet and more distraction-free space (like a library) instead.


But what if I hate the silence?

Everybody’s different – perhaps turning off notifications and getting yourself in a calm and relaxed state simply isn’t doing it for you. And that’s perfectly fine! Some people work best alone, others find solitude draining and unmotivating – if that’s the case, then perhaps consider some more community-driven solutions instead…

  1. Work with a writing buddy. There’s a reason study groups exist, so if long hours of solitude sound too dreary to handle, look into the idea of body doubling.
  2. Attend a sit-in writing session.  We not only understand but actively encourage engaging with the wider writing community – which is why all of our alumni can access our monthly sit-in writing sessions for free


Are you ready?

Time management is essential for staying productive and achieving your goals – and not just for writers, but for everybody (but especially for writers). 

By avoiding common mistakes and embracing helpful techniques – don’t forget the Pomodoro Method and the Eisenhower Matrix! – we hope this article has helped you re-examine your problem areas and take the first steps towards self-improvement and increased self-discipline. 

Remember to prioritise your tasks, set realistic deadlines and manage distractions both online and in real life – with these tools and strategies, we’re sure you’ll master the art of time management in no time, taking both your writing and your general productivity to the next level.

Still struggling with procrastination? Read our Stories from Life course director, Richard Benson’s,  anti-procrastination blog post for more advice.

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Meet your Guest author

Asia Pesaro

Asia (A.J.) Pesaro is a British-Italian student about to graduate Brandeis University in Massachusetts, USA, studying English Language & Literature, Creative Writing, and Film.

They previously completed the IB Diploma at UWC Pearson College in Canada. Asia enjoys both literary and genre fiction, is finishing their undergraduate thesis in Creative Writing, and is very excited to be a part of PWA’s team!

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