Sunday, August 18, 2019

5 Productivity Tips for Academic Writers

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Many of us in the academic community struggle with getting our writing projects completed. I was once in that boat but I became a much more productive writer about 15 years ago when I completely transformed the way that I thought about writing. Here are five tips that may help you on your writing journey.

1. Think of yourself as a writer. As higher education professionals, we wear many hats. We are teachers, administrators, counselors, and topical specialists. But we are also writers. When you talk to professors and ask them what they do, they rarely say that they are writers. Many of us were traumatized by our experiences working with our advisors or committee members as we completed our thesis or dissertation projects. Others may see themselves as too busy in the lab or with teaching to prioritize writing as a daily activity--even though writing is a part of our jobs (the whole publish or perish thing). As a result, some academics write very little or just enough to get tenure or to meet annual evaluation guidelines. When you think of yourself as a writer, you will write more and take the task of writing more seriously.

2.Write every day. There is that old writer's saying that you can't be a writer if you don't write. Find a time each day to write. Because I have prioritized writing in my career, I usually do my writing first thing in the morning. I spend an hour or so at the keyboard and then I can move on to other things. By building a habit of finding the same time each day to write, your writing productivity will skyrocket.

3. Set writing goals and targets. I have a daily writing goal of at least 1000 words. This amounts to about two and half pages or so of single-spaced text. Your daily writing goals are part of a broader writing target. The target may be an article, a proposal, a book, or some other type of content. Each of these types of projects has a particular word length. An academic article, for example, may be around 8,000 words. Assuming you have all the information to complete the article, you could finish it in about a week and move on to your next writing project. An 80,000 word book should take about three months.

4. Write fearlessly. We all make mistakes in our writing. However, when you are trying to hit your daily writing goals, plow through creating your content and edit later. You waste time when you struggle over the perfect word or paragraph structure. Plus, editing with a clear head when you have had some time away from the document is much easier than editing when you are in the midst of it. Everyone develops their own editing style, but I prefer to edit when a document is totally complete so that I can not only do detailed editing but also conduct a document level review of the overall content.

5. Take time to think. Build in introspection time into your day when you can think about your writing projects. For me, I do this at the gym or when I go out for a long walk or run. Others may think deeply while doing hobbies or commuting. This time allows me to consider the next day's writing or even the arc of the writing project. Of course other things come to mind during this time. However, if one thinks about the next day's writing task, even for a little while, the writing is much easier in the morning.

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