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Productive Writer No. 2

27.09.2017

Schedule Your Writing

In the previous posting I encouraged you to commit to writing for at least 90 minutes each day. Every day without fail...at least 90 minutes.

Here's something else that can help you: Schedule your writing. Put it on a calendar and make it a commitment. It's a commitment to yourself and to your success. It's as important and serious a commitment as attending a graduate seminar, or teaching a class, or meeting with your advisor.

It's true. You are more likely to complete a task if you schedule a specific time for it on your calendar, and then stick to your schedule. When you make a schedule that includes everything you must do, or at least the priority items, you are much less likely to say you don't have enough time to get things done.

Try it. It may feel like you are micromanaging yourself. But it will help you to:

  • Prioritize the most essential and important tasks (to help you to finish a manuscript, to complete your degree, to get a job, to stay healthy, to maintain important relationships).
  • Become more realistic about how much time it actually takes to do anything-to outline, to draft, to revise-related to your writing. When I first became a faculty member I would ask my graduate students, as they started to conduct research for their thesis or dissertation, to write down how long their work would take from start to finish. I would file their written estimate, then pull it out when they completed their degree. It always took at least twice as long as they expected.
  • Motivate yourself to adhere to your schedule and timeline for writing. At least for those elements that are under your control. This was the issue that caused all my graduate students over 20 years' time to misjudge how long it would take to complete their thesis. Even if they adhered to their planned schedule and self-imposed deadlines, there were many elements not under their control. The length of time to secure IRB approval for research with human subjects. Delays in finding, scheduling and interviewing research participants. Or experiments not going as planned. Their advisor not giving timely feedback on their drafts. (Ahem.) Control what you can, and plan your project to allow for enough time to overcome the obstacles and delays not under your control.

So in addition to writing for 90 minutes today, make time (by putting it on your schedule) to schedule 90-minute blocks of writing on your calendar for the next two weeks. If it's scheduled, whether it's writing, running experiments, reading, exercising, sleeping, you are much more likely to accomplish it.

Have you written for 90 minutes yet today? Get it done!

Jan Allen, Associate Dean

Academic and Student Affairs

Cornell Graduate School