The 2 Biggest Factors of my Most Successful Writing Semesters (drawn from 4 years of writing session data!)

Over the years, my schedule and responsibilities have led me to experiment with various writing schedules and productivity strategies. I’ve always wondered what variables really matter in publishing more academic writing. I dutifully tracked my writing–every session!–for four years. But I never returned to them to crunch the numbers until recently.

Until I crunched the numbers, I had no concrete proof of which variables led to my most successful writing semesters. What I learned in poring over my own writing data has now transformed how I structure my writing sessions.

Ready to discover the two key variables I now prioritize in my writing practice and the one shocking variable that had almost no effect at all? 

Let’s dive in.

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How to Start a Daily Academic Writing Habit from Scratch

One of my mentees put it better than I could have:

Writing an academic book is really no different from any other project. It’s just about sitting down and putting in consistent work.

In Professors as Writers (ebook), Robert Boice concludes that the single best thing faculty can do to boost their output is to establish a regular writing habit. 

His results are astonishing: faculty who wrote in small, regular amounts (even just 30 minutes per day) produced over three times as many pages as those who only wrote when they felt like it. They also had twice as many creative ideas as those who wrote only when they felt motivated. 

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Review & Revise Your Container Routine with These Questions

If you’re following along with my “Finding the Time To Write Your Academic Book Series,” you’ve now had a few weeks to develop and practice implementing your Container Routine. (Don’t know what a Container Routine is? Read my article on why you should use a Container Routine. Then read Container Routine 101, which helps you put together your first one.)

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3 Ways to Engineer Your Book Writing Environment

If you’re like many of the junior scholars I coach, you desperately want to find time to write your academic book. But during the semester, it doesn’t feel possible. You might have developed your first container routine. And you’ve taken to trying to implement it each week. You set product-focused weekly goals.

But then it’s time to actually sit down to write, and something comes up. You have trouble sticking to your plans, especially on teaching days.

And you feel frustration, shame, and guilt.

Why can’t you just stick to your plan?

Want to know the secret?

The problem has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how you’re approaching writing.

I bet you’re making one common error. And, as a result, you’re stuck in a hopeless cycle.

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How to Use Google Forms to Track Your Writing Sessions

This post is the seventh in a series designed to help you write your academic book during the semester. In previous posts, I’ve covered how to find time for the book using the system I call the container routine. Then, I showed you how to implement your container routine each week.

But putting time for your book on your calendar is only one piece of the puzzle. The next important piece is finding objective ways to track how you’re doing.

In previous posts, I’ve shown you how I use Excel to track my own writing sessions, and discussed why opening and closing routines are crucial to sustained writing. In this post, I put all three pieces together by showing you how to make an “opening routine” Google Form, a “closing routine” Google Form, and a tracking spreadsheet that automatically calculates what you’ve done.

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Finding the Time to Write Your Academic Book with a Young Child [A Guest Post]

Many first-time academic book authors, but especially parents of young children, struggle with finding time to write their book.

I frequently receive questions like these:

I’m starting my second year on the TT as the parent of a now one year old. I spent all last year in survival mode between the sleep exhaustion that comes with a newborn, barely keeping my head above water with new course prep, and getting used to my new institution and department.

I know I need to make progress on my book this year for tenure, but I don’t know how I can make it work. How can I find time to write my book while parenting a young child?

So, I turned to a mentee who’s been through this struggle herself. Here is her guest post, including her top 5 tips for finding time to write your first book as a new parent.

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Finding Time to Write Your Academic Book, Part 5: Implementing Your Plan Each Week

In this series, I show you how to find time to write your first book during the semester, even as a parent on a heavy teaching load (3-3 or 4-4). In previous posts, I’ve tackled some of the pitfalls of planning your time (you don’t keep yourself, the doer in mind) and why and how to develop your first container routine. Last week’s guest poster also offered advice for stressed parents of young children to get your writing done.

This week, we’ll begin implementing your container routine. Doing so involves two principal steps, both of which you should complete before the week begins. (I typically do this on Sunday evening).

  1. Adjusting your container routine (your weekly template) to fit any exceptional commitments in your upcoming week
  2. Filling your containers (both before the week begins and as you go).

Here’s how to do them.

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Finding Time to Write Your Academic Book #4: Container Routine 101

This post is the fourth in a series designed to help first-time academic book authors find time to write their book during the semester.

In part 3, I told you how the container routine will help you solve five of the most common struggles first-time book authors face.

In this post, I’m going to walk you through making your first container routine. The basic idea is that you are going to determine a “default template” for how you spend your time each week.

Ready? Let’s go!

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Finding Time to Write Your Academic Book #3: Introducing the Container Routine

I work with junior humanities and qualitative social science faculty on tackling their book revisions.

Writing an academic book, though, is not just a matter of mastering its content, form, and process.

It also involves trying to find time to write it while still adjusting to a new institution, teaching more classes than ever before, and balancing work and life.

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How To Find Time to Write Your Academic Book, Part 2: Plan for the Doer

This post is part 2 of my 10-part series, in which I tackle one of the trickiest problems for first-time academic book authors: finding the time to write your book when the semester gets hectic.

Next week, I’ll introduce you to the container routine–a simple planning strategy you can implement now, before the semester’s begun, to make sure your top priorities find time in the chaos of your semester day-to-day schedule.

But there’s one main problem.

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Finding Time to Write Your First Academic Book, Part 1: Series Introduction

Over the past year, I’ve committed myself to helping junior scholars in humanities and social sciences tackle their first book project. Many book-specific tasks trip these scholars up, especially getting a handle on their project as a whole and breaking it down into manageable chunks.

But what first-time book authors struggle with more than anything has nothing to do with their books per se and everything to do with managing such a large project.

The #1 question I’m asked is: “How do I find the time to write my book with all my other responsibilities?”

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Professors: Monitor & Reframe This Thought Pattern about Writing to Boost Productivity

Professors Monitor & Reframe this thought pattern to boost productivity

In previous posts, I show humanities faculty why and how to monitor negative writing behaviors and how to develop an action plan to develop better habits.

But thoughts are just as much a part of your writing as the behaviors you exhibit. Curious about tips to be more productive? Monitoring and replacing just one thought pattern can make a significant difference.

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Commit, Pause, Revise: Apply it to Academic Writing, Teaching & Productivity

Here’s the setup. Researchers (Lowe and Crawford) wanted to test whether intuitions or further reflection proved more accurate. So, they gave students a test consisting only of true/false questions. All students had two passes at the exam.

The only difference? Half of the students committed in writing to one answer the first time around before choosing a final answer. The other group merely read over the questions before marking their final answer.

What did the study find? Participants that were required to commit to one answer before their second pass scored higher overall than those that only mentally chose an answer.

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