Sunday, December 7, 2014

6 Productivity Tips for University Professors at the End of the Semester

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The close of the semester is a stressful time for students and professors.  Students are rushing around trying to finish off final projects and studying for exams.  Professors are busy writing and grading exams and evaluating student papers.  They are also finishing off writing projects like papers, books, and grant proposals.  Here are 6 tips for maintaining research productivity during this period.

1.  Set writing goals.  Make a list of what you need to write and evaluate the word or page count.  Break the writing and editing tasks into distinct daily goals and add them to the calendar.  Do not leave the office or go to bed until you have made your goal.

2.  Communicate your goals to others around you.  During this time of year, we can get very grumpy due to the increased workload.  It is a good idea to communicate your work load to your friends and family so they understand what you are trying to accomplish.  At the same time, schedule events with family or friends for after the semester so you and they know that there is an end to the crunch time.

3.  Reward accomplishments.  If we do not find ways to reward our writing efforts, the work can seem like drudgery.  At the conclusion of a major project, do something nice for yourself.  It will feel good to write afterwards.

4.  Do not run away.  As an editor of a journal and associate editor of another, I find that many authors do not complete edits or rewrites in a timely fashion after the review process.  They may disagree with a reviewer, find the editing process difficult, or dislike the rewriting process.  After some gentle nudges, I can usually get them to submit their work.  Some authors sit on their work for months or up to a year before they get back to me with revisions--revisions that took maybe a day or two to complete.  Running away from writing work only delays progress and moving on to something new.

5.  Read.  One of the best ways to think about writing is to read.  Reading books are articles in my field gives me the opportunity to think about what I might have to say about the topic.  It inspires me to write to ensure that my ideas are brought forward in the academic discourse.  I also think it is helpful to read outside of my discipline.  It gives my brain an opportunity to think creatively.

6.  Time management.  Finally, I have to urge everyone to think about time management and productivity.  You have to carve out time for writing and editing during this time of year.  We are all in high demand right now.  Students need to see us for a myriad of issues from grade questions to advising.  There are also 10,000 end of semester meetings.  However, you have to find ways to block out time when you are most productive and make sure that you go to writing locations where you can work undisturbed.  I write best early in the morning at home or in the afternoon in a library out of my office.  I block out writing time on my calendar so that I make sure that nothing gets in the way of my writing work.

Many of us try to end the semester with a major writing accomplishment or two under our belt.  Hopefully these tips will help to ensure that when we close our doors to leave campus at the close of the semester, we have some projects finished.

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