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Finding time for fun and relaxation while also working on your academic summer projects tends to be a difficult task. As I covered creating a research routine last time, today’s post is all about creating a writing routine that works well with your summer schedule. Once you reach the point where drafting could or should be happening, how do you balance this work with any leftover research and all your non-work summer activities? Here’s a step-by-step process for creating your summer writing routine.Maybe you can just make yourself a reward system for finishing specific tasks. #gradschoollife Click To Tweet
Figure Out How Much You Need or Want to Accomplish
Like with the first step of creating your research routine, you first want to decide exactly what writing needs to be accomplished by the end of the summer. Which manuscripts have deadlines coming up fast? If your projects don’t have external deadlines yet, consider how long getting them published will likely take and work backwards. If you need a certain amount of publications by a certain date, plan backwards from then and give yourself plenty of wiggle room considering what you know about the speed at which that journal, book, or other text is likely to be published.
Another element of your writing to consider when figuring out this timing is the revision and editing process. Are you the type to write a “shitty first draft” and then moving on to multiple rounds of heavy revision and editing that takes longer than drafting did? Or, are you the type to revise and edit as you go, making the post-drafting revision and editing process very quick to finish? Know this about yourself, and time your writing and revising schedule accordingly. More on this later…
Figure Out What Days You Want to Write
Are you going to write on the same days you keep working on researching other projects? Or, do you want to batch the types of academic tasks you complete to different days? Personally, I prefer researching and writing on different days, because in my opinion, these tasks require different types of focus and energy. I talk about time blocking and batching in this video, if you’re interested.
As it’s summer, carefully consider what days are best for working. If you have kids and a partner who doesn’t go in to work on Wednesdays, then that day might be perfect for getting a large chunk of writing done while your partner watches the kids. On the other hand, that day can be the perfect day for fun family outings. Consider what all of your week days look like in regard to family or personal events, and find days to work that won’t replace all the fun and relaxing events you can be taking part in this summer.Study your work patterns, find times when writing doesn't feel like (as much of) a struggle, and pick as many of those times as you can for your writing. #academictwitter Click To Tweet
Figure Out What Times of the Day Work Best for You
Like the above step, look at your schedule and consider when you have large chunks of time for writing. Also consider when you tend to have the most energy for writing. Are you an early bird gets the worm type or a night owl? Do you write best after a good meal or once you’ve gotten a certain household task done? Study your work patterns, find times when writing doesn’t feel like (as much of) a struggle, and pick as many of those times as you can for your writing. But, one or more of those times is reserved for fun and/or relaxing activities that can’t be rescheduled, I recommend picking your next best times rather than letting your work take over your summer fun.
Figure Out What Tools Will Help You Stay on Track
While certain productivity tools might work best when you’re deep in your research process, they might not work well for your writing routine. As such, consider how you can best keep your writing organized, easy to save, and quick to open and edit. I like using Google Docs for drafting my dissertation chapters, because they sync with all my devices. As long as I have a computer, laptop, or tablet with me, I can write basically anywhere with internet without worrying about bringing along a USB drive with all my drafts.
As for other tools that help me, I like using the Atracker app to track how much time I’m spending on my various tasks. You could also just use your phone’s timer to set aside a certain length of time to work before taking a break (I love the pomodoro method). If you have an Alexa/Echo or Google Home device, you can verbally set alarms or timers for your writing.
If you have other suggestions for tools to use, I’d love to see them in the comments section of this post. I’ve heard creating a Spotify playlist can help get the writing juices flowing, for example, but I’m not sure I’m sold on that idea.
Figure Out When You Should Edit
I mentioned above that some people are the edit-at-the-end type, while others are edit-as-you-go people. While the first step is figuring out which type you are, I also recommend considering whether that approach has been working well for you in the long run. Does revising and editing take you hours open hours because you’re typing so quickly that every line has at least one typo? Does writing a full draft take you days-upon-months because you edit every paragraph or page as you go?
Your style might work really well for you, which is fantastic. But, if it doesn’t consider when exactly would be the best time to edit. Personally, I like leaving editing for days or times when drafting feels like way too much effort. [See my five tips for dealing with writer’s block video.] I can edit my draft and still know that I’m making progress on my writing.
Figure Out How to Keep Yourself Accountable
Accountability is key for helping you stick to your writing routine. In my research routine post I mentioned telling other people about your goals to help keep you on track. You can do the same with your writing goals, or you can take a less external approach by writing down your progress in a journal, planner, desk or wall calendar, etc. Maybe you can just make yourself a reward system for finishing specific tasks. If promising yourself to complete a task is enough for you to get it done, great. If not, find some way to help make your progress match the routine you’ve created for yourself.
Here’s a public Trello board you can copy onto your account that’s designed for an accountability group to use over the summer (or really, any time). I created it and added some tips on how to use it. Here’s a video about finding an accountability group or partner and ideas for tracking your progress (including the Trello board idea).
Better Yet: Free Collection: Trello Boards for Academics (in my resource library; includes the accountability group board and 7 other boards, as well)
You might need to make a lot of different routines to find the one(s) that work best for you. Don’t give up if your first attempt doesn’t work. Keep moving forward and eventually you’ll find a writing routine that works for you. You can tweak it further during the academic year, if necessary. But, remember, don’t let it take over your summer life to the extent that you don’t take any time to have fun and relax!
P.S. If you’re teaching your first college course this upcoming academic year, I highly recommend signing up for my email newsletter below. I’m hard at work on a 5-week series just for you! If you need some advice immediately, though, here are ten teaching tips for new college instructors.
Comment below: What’s your best tip for keeping to a writing routine?
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