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Productive Writer No. 3


Write Early in the Day 

Schedule you writing for the very first thing in the morning. You are more likely to write every day that way. 


Why is that?


You are less likely to be interrupted early in the morning. At the point that other, unexpected things that invariably come up during the day start to happen, you will feel less guilty and anxious knowing that you have already written that day. If you find yourself with additional time to write in the afternoon or evening, you can always write more. If you wait until the afternoon or evening to start writing, there is almost no chance that you will find time for multiple writing blocks that day. (Think of it as lagniappe, something "a little extra" from the Louisiana French with links to both Spanish and French Creole cultures. Mark Twain described the word lagniappe as "a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get.")


If you write early in the morning you also will be less likely to attend to all the other (endless) demands on your time before you write. One strategy to help you focus on your writing during your early morning scheduled writing time is to make a list of all these demands, everything you must do that day. If, while you are writing, some pressing need distracts you from your work, add it to the list and quickly return to writing. Do not stop writing to send an email, to pay a bill, or to search for a citation. Just add it to your list and keep writing. (A subsequent posting will describe other ways to avoid and manage distractions.)


David Allen (no relation), in his book of productivity tips, emphasizes the importance of making such a list (in writing, no mental lists) when he points out the inefficiency of our psychic RAM. "Your head is probably not the best place to keep something in a trustworthy fashion." Trying to keep a mental list "creates infinite loops" of competing conflicts that stymie your progress. "As soon as you make any commitment not [immediately] completed, your mind will demand and take psychic energy until it is resolved" (Allen, 2003, p. 27).


So if a distracting thought of what you need to do later arises while you are writing, add it to your list and stop thinking about it until your scheduled writing time is over.


Early morning writing works even if you are not a morning person. Seriously. (I personally know lots of converts among initially skeptical graduate students!) 


Try it for a week. Early morning writing, especially on your busiest days, works for all types of writers...especially procrastinators. (We know who we are!)


Have you written today yet?



Jan Allen, Associate Dean

Academic and Student Affairs

Cornell Graduate School