Time management

Contributed by: Kaitie Christensen and Nathan Lachner

Working backwards to reach your goal

An essay should express continued thought and/or research on a particular subject. It is harder to collect and research information when it is all done at the last minute. Time management is integral to academic writing, especially with longer essays. Utilize these tips to make the writing process as smooth as possible.

Assess the work that needs to be done

  • Consider your assignment and the amount of work that will need to be completed.
    • Due date
    • The page or word count
    • Expectations such as audience and research
  • Think about all of the stages of writing: research, drafting, writing, and revision.
  • Think about how much time you would need to comfortably complete each step. How long will it take you to research? How long will it take you to draft? How long will it take you to write and revise?

Plan your execution

  • With planning your execution, there are two major elements to be considered:
    • Length of the assignment
      • Determine a steady pace for your execution of the essay
    • Time until the deadline

Consider time for revision

  • Don’t plan to finish on the day of the deadline. It is ideal to finish the writing at least one day in advance to read over the essay and check for mistakes or possible revisions.


  • If you plan your essay accordingly, the process will be less painful. You will be able to submit your essay on time.

Once you familiarize yourself with the assignment, you can work backwards from your due date to create a plan. This may feel overwhelming at first, but taking it a step at a time can help you feel confident and in control.


Backplanning emphasizes working backwards from the day the assignment is due to the first day you begin in order to work through all the steps of the writing assignment. Know your own preferences and set a schedule for yourself so that the writing process can be as smooth and productive as possible.  The stages below may give you an idea for how to begin breaking up the steps of the assignment.


  • Explore ideas
  • Brainstorm using an objective such as a research question as guidance


  • Write down all the thoughts
  • Cluster ideas and thoughts by similarities and how they relate to each other
  • Develop a vision for the paragraphs, pages, and sections of your paper
    • Easier to write a thesis statement once you have a solid idea of the topics your paper will discuss!


  • It’s okay to leave blank spaces where you intend to come back and revise
  • Helps to finalize the organization, structure, and flow of ideas, and to identify places that needs more analysis or research


You can do this step by yourself, with a friend, or with a consultant at the Writing & Speaking Center!

  • Take time to fill in any blanks or remaining questions
  • Read the paper over for purpose and comparing it to the prompt
  • Check the strength of the thesis, organization, and evidence


  • Smooth out anything that sounds awkward or rough
  • Fix small mistakes like citations and formatting

You may choose to have a break between editing and re-reading in order to clear your mind after you have walked away.


  • Give your assignment one last read before submitting.

You may choose to complete one step of the writing process per day, break your paper up into pieces or allot time for feedback (such as the Writing & Speaking Center). Whatever you choose to do, pace yourself and remember to schedule breaks such as weekends to give yourself a chance to walk away from the assignment and to relax!