Time Management for College Writers     

  Prewriting: (variable time)

  1.       The time involved in choosing a subject and prewriting varies widely according to your assignment or task at hand, the audience, the research necessary, your own knowledge of the subject and the length of the paper. These necessary steps in the writing process can take anywhere from seconds to years, but are usually determined by the real-world deadline for the text or paper.    

     2.       Research, if necessary, can take as much time as you want to give it. It is usually advisable to give yourself a deadline or time limit (before midnight Tuesday, or no more than X hours online or in the library.) Do not go over that deadline or time limit unless you have not found enough scholarly material to write a decent paper, or you are still searching for some specific sources or data that you know exist and you have reasonable hope you can find them before your deadline.  

     3.       Researching by interlibrary loan can take from several days to a month.

  Writing (~20 minutes per typed page, minimum)

4.       Start writing your rough draft as soon as you can.  Once you have those first words on paper, the rest is much easier.

5.       Find your best time of day and write then.  Never put off writing until you are tired or sleepy.  Tired writing is almost always bad writing.  

6.       A rule of thumb is to allow an absolute minimum of 10 minutes per paragraph to produce the rough draft of an ordinary short (<3 typed pages) text.  Thus, for a four-paragraph essay allow at least 40 minutes for the first draft.   

7.       For longer written pieces allow an absolute minimum of one hour to produce every three typed pages of rough draft. If you spend significantly less time than that there is a greater risk, almost a certainty, that you are producing garbage. The time you save by rushing you lose in rewriting.  

8.       Once your rough draft is done, leave it until the next day before revising it. This way you will be able to look at it with “fresh eyes,” and see errors you would probably miss if you just got done writing it.

  Rewriting (1 or 2 x the time it takes to write a rough draft)

9.       Allow at least the same amount of time for revision and proofreading (revising) as you did for producing the rough draft. Some experts say that for important, complicated or difficult scholarly or professional text one must allow twice as much time for revision and proofreading as for creating the rough draft.  This means a very important three page typed paper should require a total of at least two to three hours to complete in final form. (This two-page document took me two hours!)  

Many students treat the first draft as the most important part of writing.  But that is wrong; the first draft is actually the least important part. Analysis, organizing and rewriting all do much more to cause an effective final product…

Your only goal during the first draft is to get things down on the page so that you can start rewriting.  The first draft has no other value.  Regardless of how many faults it has, the first draft accomplishes its entire purpose merely by coming into existence.

Do your first draft as early as you possibly can. The first draft may be the least important part of the writing process, but you cannot start rewriting until you have a first draft.  And if you leave little time for rewriting, the document that might have been rewritten into something wonderful will only be okay, or less than okay. 


(Neumann, Richard K. Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing. 4th Ed. Gaithersburg: Aspen, 2001. 60.) Underlining added.

10.   revise first.  And, remember what Theodore Sturgeon wrote (as quoted by writer Richard Lederer):  “Nine-tenths of everything is crap.”  Allow enough time before your final deadline to rewrite nine-tenths of your paper (or to rewrite it from scratch, if necessary!)

    11.   Leave enough time to read the text out loud, or to have someone else read it out loud to you. This is one of the most important things you can do to as a scholar to ensure the quality of your text.

12.   If your mother language is not English, or if you have more than average problems with spelling, punctuation or grammar, you must, must take your paper by a tutor, instructor or other scholar whose first language is English!  There is no way around it , and no other way you can reasonably expect to succeed!

13.   Then, proofread last. The time necessary for this process depends on the length of the paper. The best method for this is to print out the paper, proofread it in hardcopy (or, even better, have someone else correct it), make the necessary corrections on the computer text, and only then print out the final version.

14.   Print out your final “fair copy,” and several extras.  In the case of a particularly difficult or critically important document, save electronic and online copies (several) in different places, including e-mailing yourself a copy, in case your flash drive or hard drive crashes, your laptop is stolen, or your house burns down!  .

15.   Keep secure, permanent electronic and paper files of all papers you write in college. You never know when you may need or use them again.

  O.W. 10/05 rev. 6/08

For educational purposes only.

Owen M. Williamson - Education Bldg 211E - phone: (915) 747 7625 - fax: (915) 747 5655
The University of Texas at El Paso - 500 W. University Ave. - El Paso, TX 79968
Important Disclaimer

Creative Commons License
Open Courseware | OCW |This work is dedicated to the Public Domain..