#1: How to use potentially wasted time in your schedule to write and successfully publish more research articles

professional woman using a laptop computer, surrounded by books and clocks

One of the most common problems that academic staff face is finding the time to write for publication.

Academic institutions often have performance indicators written into their strategy statements that reflect the publishing ‘productivity’ of a university.

These performance indicators become individual targets for academic staff. And you don’t want to explain to your manager why you have missed your publication target.

But you also realise that a solid list of published works is critical for your career and advancement.

Most academic staff have a rich and varied workload, balancing student needs, teaching, administration, citizenship and their own scholarly development.

The busy academic life, full of demands from a range of different individuals, often means that personal research takes a back-seat.

Here are some tips to get things back on track.

– Commit to writing 10 minutes per day

– Write for yourself

– Separate writing from editing

– Invest time in outlining

– Use snippets of time

Commit to writing 10 minutes per day

You will achieve more if your efforts are consistent. If you consistently de-prioritise writing then you will not be able to achieve success as an academic researcher.

Form a habit by committing to writing for 10 minutes every day, before you open your email. It doesn’t matter what you write.

Just write.

Write for yourself

At school we were taught to write for an audience. Our teachers made us write essays corrected our mistakes. They trained us to write the finished article in one go.

This is too hard. It makes writing academic articles too challenging.

First of all, we need to write for ourselves. You can start this in your daily 10 minute writing session. Write however you feel and don’t correct any mistakes.

Just get the words down.

You are the audience.

Write for you.

Separate writing from editing

At the end of the first working week you will have written for at least 50 minutes.

The words will be all for yourself.

Now, do some editing.

Tidy it up. Correct the spelling and grammatical errors. Make the text flow.

New ideas will appear. Include them if they fit with your text. If not, keep them somewhere to use another time.

Invest time in outlining

People who write for a living (think journalists, copy writers, etc.) use outlines to structure their writing.

Academic articles tend to follow structures that are common to different subject disciplines. Learn these structures and use them to plan your articles.

More time spent planning an article makes it easier for you to work on individual sections. When you work on a section you don’t have to think about the whole article. It’s easier to make progress.

Use snippets of time

Waiting for someone to arrive? Or you might be in a queue waiting for an appointment with someone.

There are lots of time ’snippets’ that go to waste. 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there.

You’ve been practicing writing for 10 minutes every day. Which means that you can write small amounts of text.

You’ve separated writing from editing. So you can choose who to write for when you sit down and write.

You’ve spent more time outlining and planning your articles. Keep the latest copy of your writing to hand – printed or on a device – and you’ll be able to make productive use of the next 10 minute delay when your manager is late to the meeting.

Just write or edit a paragraph for your outline and you shall be one significant step closer to finishing your article.

Take action today

Finding big, uninterrupted blocks of time to write can be difficult.

Establish an effective writing habit that makes use of the wasted time you already have.

– Commit to writing 10 minutes per day

– Write for yourself

– Separate writing from editing

– Invest time in outlining

– Use snippets of time

Consistency wins every time.