Getting StartedWriteHereWriteNowWriteOn

Four paper-planning hacks

by Meredith Hamilton

It’s Friday. Perhaps you’re sitting at your desk feeling completely overwhelmed by all the work you have to do. Maybe you feel lost or disoriented. We’ve all been there, but you don’t have to stay there. Here are four paper-planning tricks that will make writing your papers a smooth, organized, and stress-free process:

  1. Schedule a “thinking period.” Designate a time to think about your paper. Ideally, this will happen soon after you receive your paper assignment. Try going for a walk or taking a bike ride while you think. Movement can be a great way to stimulate ideas and get your creative juices flowing. This will ultimately leave you more prepared to begin the planning process.
  1. Create a calendar in Excel. Fill in your class times and extracurricular activities. (This includes sports, student government obligations, etc.) Once you’ve done this, fill in your work hours. Now, you’re going to plan when to work on your paper. Let’s pretend that your paper is due week 5, and you’ve decided to dedicate six hours to it each week. Block off this time on your schedule. Use bold print or colored print—something that will grab your attention. I like this strategy because then I can’t claim that I don’t have time to work on my papers.

Your calendar might look something like this:

paper calendar

  1. Create (effective) notifications on your phone or laptop. Use your phone or laptop’s calendar function. This is your friend. Once you’ve put your designated “paper-writing time” into your Excel calendar, create notifications that you’ll actually pay attention to. This means you should turn off the snooze setting and set multiple alarms. The notifications will remind you of the commitment you made to work on your paper.
  1. Set a word-count goal. Now that you’ve gotten to the actual paper-writing session, set a word-count goal for yourself. The goal shouldn’t be so high that it takes away from the quality of your work, but it should be high enough to encourage you to make good headway on your paper—try 500 words per session. If you use your designated time effectively, you’ll find that you’ll finish well before the due date.

Planning out your papers encourages you to fully commit to your work, and this ultimately makes writing a lot more enjoyable. Happy planning!


Meredith Hamilton is a junior political science and English double major.


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