Saturday, February 9, 2019

The PhD: Why Daily Writing Leads to Productivity

by , Get a Life, PhD:

I began developing my daily writing habit in December 2006 – over ten years ago! Since then, I have written almost every weekday, except for vacations, of course. And, I have written a ton. I also have published a lot.

In 2006, when I began to write daily, I had two published articles and a dissertation. Today, I have published five sole-authored books, over 50 articles and book chapters, and dozens of blog posts, online essays, and OpEds.

A few years ago, I wrote a post about how to write every day. This post is about why daily writing works.

I have writing on my calendar every morning. I write for two hours a day most days, and I get in a minimum of 30 minutes of writing on days when my schedule is packed with teaching and/or meetings. I thus write for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of two hours every weekday.

At the beginning of the week, I decide what writing tasks I will work on, and which days I will focus on which tasks. Sometimes, I have no pressing deadlines. This means I have to think ahead to figure out which writing tasks I should focus on.

For example, I have an article due November 15. But, my co-author is working on it. I need to wait to hear back from her before I can work on it again. I also have been working on a grant proposal due in January. But, I don’t want to work on it now because I sent a draft to two readers. I am waiting to hear back from them before I get back to revising it. This means I don’t have anything to work on right now that has a deadline in the next couple of months.

I thus am writing today only because it is a habit – not because I have an upcoming deadline.

On Sunday evening, I pulled out my task list for the year to see what I can work on.

I have three pieces due at the end of February 2019. For two of them, I have to wait for co-authors to do their part before I can move forward. But, there is one of them that I can work on. I thus am likely to finish that piece way ahead of schedule. And, that is great because I have two other pieces also due in late February.

I think this is one of the main reasons daily writing leads to high productivity. If you set aside time to write, you will write regardless of whether or not you have an impending deadline. And, if you wait until you have a deadline to write, you might find that your deadlines are stacked together, making it difficult for you to meet them.

My preference is to write daily, but the most important thing is that writing becomes a habit. If you set aside two days a week to write and write on those days no matter what, I suspect you would find the same thing – that you write because it’s on your schedule, not because you have a deadline.

What about you? Have you developed a writing habit? Have you ever found yourself writing even though you don’t have an impending deadline?

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