How to be better at budgeting your writing time (video)

Viewing time: 2 minutes 45 seconds

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast about writing that I started in 2017 and that ran, more or less weekly, until April 2022. This is a republication of issue #9, about how to get better at budgeting writing time. It ran first ran on March 17/17.


Welcome to The Write Question, the video-podcast designed to answer your questions about writing. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant.

Today I have a question from Catherine Womack from Bellmont, MA. Catherine is an academic and here’s what she asked me: “If I’m in the position of having to start and finish a piece of writing in a constrained period of time — in, say two hours —  how would you suggest that I divide up my time between mind mapping, writing and editing?

Thanks, Catherine. The question of budgeting writing time is a really interesting one, and I’ve given it a lot of thought over the last 10 years. I used to be a senior editor at a daily newspaper — where the time pressure was INTENSE. I think that helped make me more mindful of time management when I left to start my own writing business.

Here’s how you need to think about budgeting your time.

Editing should take twice as long as the writing. So, if you spent 20 minutes writing a piece you should spend 40 minutes editing it.

Here’s another idea that surprises many people: Every piece of writing needs some incubation. That means giving your brain time to transition from writing to editing. You just let the piece of writing sit for at least an hour — longer if that’s feasible — and let the editing leprechauns do their work. Time away from your work is essential so that you can distance yourself from the topic a little bit.

I even did this when I worked for a daily newspaper. Yes, the deadlines were intense and if I couldn’t take a full hour I’d take whatever time I could and do something really distracting: I’d go for coffee with a colleague, I’d work on another story or I’d return some calls. Take as much time away as you can and even if the time is short, do something to get your mind off the story. I’ve included a link to a piece on incubating in the description.

Then, unless you’ve really backed yourself into a corner with your deadline, don’t think that all pieces have to be finished on the same day you start them. So, spend some time on day 1 thinking about the piece you need to write. Spend some time on day 2 writing. And spend some time on day 3 editing. This kind of budgeting of your time will give you more energy and lead to a better result.

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from motivational speaker Zig Ziglar:

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

Thanks for your question, Catherine. Good luck with your budgeting.

Thanks so much for watching. If YOU have a question, you can email, tweet, or skype me. You can find the details in the description below along with any resources I’ve mentioned. And don’t forget to like and subscribe to the video.


Become a better writing by incubating

An earlier version of this video first appeared on my blog on March 17/17.

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