Time Management Techniques for Academics
Teri Surprenant, Managing Editor, Language Editing
Writing a research article can be a daunting task. It can cause researchers such anxiety that they put it off until the very last minute. Unfortunately, articles do not write themselves, so here we provide some tips to help you succeed in getting your article to the finish line—publication.
Set deadlines that are firm but also realistic
First, establish what the final deadline is for your paper. Once you have this information, you can set up a schedule. Be sure to factor in enough time to write, read, and revise your article prior to submission. Even the best writer cannot wait until the last minute to put a well-written paper together.
Break writing up into shorter tasks
Set up several “mini deadlines” so that you give each section of the paper adequate time and attention. The same holds true if you are working with other researchers on the paper. You will need to decide who will compose each section and then agree on deadlines for the individual sections. We recommend adding a bit of a buffer into the deadlines (usually a day or two) in case unexpected obligations come up.
Find a location that is conducive to writing
This may seem obvious, but it helps to have a quiet space to focus. Having too many distractions can lead to procrastination. Limiting noise, whether from people or devices, will lead to more productive writing sessions.
Block out time devoted solely to writing
Block out writing time on your calendar and set an alarm if needed to signal when you are done with the writing session. You want to present your best work, not a version created when you are fatigued. If you are having trouble finding the time to write, sometimes you just need to make the time, whether that may mean getting up earlier in the morning or staying up later in the evening hours.
Hold yourself (and your co-authors) accountable
It can be difficult to get motivated to write some days. It is okay to have a day that you do not feel like writing, but you must stay on task and spend time on your manuscripts. Use that day to read and edit a section you have already written instead. As long as you are working on your paper, the time is not wasted. Remember, you can tackle writing another, new section of your paper tomorrow.
If you are working with fellow researchers, hold each other accountable. While you do not want to nag your co-authors, a periodic check-in to see how their portions of the paper are coming along may be just the gentle nudge that they (and you) need.
We all have different writing styles, so you will need to choose what strategies work best for you. The most important thing to remember is to start early on your writing. It is better to finish ahead of time than to struggle making up time right before the final deadline.