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Essay Writing Strategies: How to Plan Your Time

Writing great essays doesn’t come easy for everyone, but it’s a skill that can be worked on. One aspect of great essay writing that can be developed over time is planning. It’s not enough to know when an essay is due, proper planning means scheduling your time days in advance so that you are writing your essay over several days instead of the night before. Here’s how to plan your time when writing essays:

Look at the due date and work backwards.

Visualize the due date on a calendar, or better yet, circle that date on the calendar. Give yourself at least a day to be completely done with your essay before you need to turn it in. If you run into any printer problems or any of a number of other nightmares that could occur, you will have an entire day to resolve. Working backwards set small deadlines that take you through the entire writing process. If you have two weeks to write your essay, plan to devote 12 days; if you have one week to write your essay, plan to devote 5 days.

Read/research your material.

As soon as you get your assignment sit down to brainstorm some ideas. Make a list of potential topics as well as some titles of books and articles you might want to look at. You should spend at least an hour doing this and if you have some time that evening or the next day, take your first trip to the library to get your material.

Create an outline.

After you’ve read your material you should have a better idea of what it is you want to write your essay on. You should try drafting a thesis to guide the rest of your outline. Your thesis may be revised as you go, but it’s a good idea to get something down. Your outline should consist of phrases or keywords that prompt your main topics and pieces of evidence.

Draft your first paper.

Start writing! Don’t worry about finding the right words or small grammar mistakes. Get your ideas down as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Though writing a draft may take you several hours, you should be able to get down a great first rough draft in one evening, leaving you plenty of days to come back and revise.

Revise.

Revision is more than just looking for errors. It’s looking for ways of improving your paper by making all of the necessary changes such as rearranging content, cutting out whole pieces, or even approaching your argument from another point of view. Don’t spend just an hour or two on this phase. Plan appropriately and devote an entire day.

Proofreading and editing.

You should plan to give yourself at least an entire day (or evening) devoted to just proofreading and editing. Preferably, you should do these critical activities with some time separating you from your most recent draft. This way you’ll approach your essay with a fresh set of eyes and will be more likely to find the smallest mistakes.

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