Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Schedule your writing into your week

One of the best ways to become a prolific writer is to write every day. If you write every day, you will make progress on your manuscripts, you will become a better writer, and it will become easier for you to write. To ensure that you write every day, however, it is crucial that you schedule it into your calendar.

Yes, I mean, literally, take out your calendar for next week and set aside time for writing every day. I am sure you are a very busy person with many responsibilities. However, if you are reading this blog, then you likely are looking for ways to be more productive. And, one of the best ways to become more productive is to schedule your writing time and treat it just like any other appointment. Here is how.

Schedule writing every day. Take a look at your schedule for next week and figure out when you might have between 15 minutes and two hours to write every day for five days a week. I prefer to work Monday to Friday, and to leave the weekends to spend time with my family. If, however, you absolutely must work on weekends, it still is advisable to write for at least 15 minutes during the week so that, come Saturday afternoon, you do not have to spend all of your writing time re-acquainting yourself with your manuscript. Spending at least 15 minutes a day with your manuscript means that it will always be fresh in your mind.

Schedule at least 15 minutes but no more than two hours. If you think that there is absolutely no way you could make any progress in 15 minutes, I encourage you to try to think of something you could do in 15 minutes. For example, I imagine you could proofread your introduction, free write, update your references, or revise a footnote in 15 minutes. On a previous blog I listed “Seven Ways You Can Write Every Day.” I also suggest that you do not schedule your writing for more than two hours at a time. If you do have a day with no other obligations, it is likely more productive to schedule two hours of writing, followed by two hours of reading than to try to schedule four hours of writing. After reading and writing for four hours, schedule in a long break that involves food and exercise and try to go in for another round. Alternatively, you can take the afternoon off, knowing that you have just had a very productive morning!

Treat writing like any other appointment. This means that, if you have scheduled writing from 8am to 9am on Monday, and someone asks you to meet at that time, that you have to say, “No, I can’t meet at 8am, how about we meet at 9am?” You, after all, will be very busy from 8am to 9am, working on your manuscript. If you are nervous about claiming you are busy when you are “just” writing, keep two things in mind: 1) If you are at a research university, writing is part of your job; and 2) It is quite unlikely that anyone will actually ask you what you are doing when you tell them that you cannot meet at a particular time.

So, go ahead, take out your calendars, and schedule between 15 minutes and two hours of writing into your week next week.

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