3 Time Management Tips for Writers

Time Management Tips
Tennessee Williams' Writing Desk - Time Management Tips
Tennessee Williams’ Writing Desk

Keep it simple, stupid!

Rilke, in one of his famous letters to a novice poet, encourages the young man to ask himself in the quiet of the night: “Must I write?”

Rilke’s suggestions for anyone who answers Yes: “Then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

If you find you have sufficient time to write, revise, edit, and promote your work, wow! You’re a rare and lucky person. If not, here are 3 common-sense time management tips worth hearing again:

1. Prioritize

Are you playing softball on Tuesday and Thursday nights? Getting drinks with friends on Friday and Saturday? Watching re-runs of 30 Rock on Sunday? Stop! List your goals and passions on a piece of paper. Realistically, you probably only have time in your life for one or two of them. Cut the rest out. I don’t suggest you give up your health, though. So be sure to find time to eat right and exercise.

2. Carve out YOUR time

Let’s assume you’re not like Rilke, and abandoning your spouse and child is out of the question. How do most writers find time to write? They carve out a space in their day that is theirs and theirs alone. Shut out all other responsibilities and obligations. Turn the phone and internet off. Sit down and write.

If you have children and a partner, have a discussion about how your needs as a writer work with or against your family’s needs. Compromise. Then be ruthless about protecting the space you’ve agreed is yours. Stick to the schedule. Is it an hour each morning? 5 hours on the weekends? Whatever works, stick to it every single week. If you yield up any of your time, it’ll become habit. So don’t give an inch! (Unless, of course, it’s an emergency.)

3. Set short, medium, and long term goals

Goals help you stay focused. Focus helps you stay productive. Productivity helps you feel accomplished. A sense of accomplishment makes you want to keep writing. I recommend setting weekly, 1-month, 6-month, 1 year, and 5 year goals. Balance goals that have to do with your writing, style, craft, and output with goals having to do with your writing career, networking, and promotional opportunities.

Do you have time management guidelines that help you in your writing life? What works? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."


  1. Thanks for the input. I am hoping to finish an ongoing novel sequeled to one being published. I don’t want to re-path my second novel, (The Foxes Have Holes) down the same plot-themed road as The Birds Have Nests, but innovate it with more humorous, yet meaningful diversity for both character and plot. This is my goal. karen


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