My semester has consisted of writing, writing, and more writing! Because of this writing workload, I had to be extremely organized with my hours and writing time. Below are some tips and tools that I found helpful along the way to keep me on track, hold myself accountable, and achieve my writing goals that I hope will be useful to others writing multiple papers simultaneously.
#1: Make and continually assess a long-term strategic plan
Each semester I make a week-by-week plan with all my papers/projects so that I can see all my goals and tasks in one table. This helps me to ensure I meet deadlines for all my assignments (see tip #3) but also to manage my workload (see tip #2) on a weekly basis. As I’m creating my plan, I consider deadlines for each paper, mine and my team’s schedules, and other responsibilities outside of writing so that I may balance my workload each week to meet deadlines without burning out. I continually revisit this strategic plan every week or two to ensure that I am progressing, including assessing whether the plan needs to be adjusted. I also build in a buffer for each paper to account for any final reviews or edits that are needed prior to submitting – or in case I fall behind schedule. By creating and continually reassessing my plan, I am able to see what’s coming, so that deadlines don’t sneak up!
#2: Set short-term goals to manage workload
At the start of each week, I set my weekly writing goals and how I am going to allocate my time between my tasks. Weekly goals help me to break down my long-term goals into actionable, achievable items. Each week, my goal is to make incremental progress on each of my papers, which may range from small tasks (e.g., starting an outline) to larger tasks (e.g., writing a whole section of a paper). As I set my weekly goals, I utilize the long-term plan created in #1 to ensure that the heavy writing items for my papers do not all fall within the same week. By setting short-term goals, I stay on track while feeling a sense accomplishment each week that I am progressing on each of my papers.
#3: Create personal accountability structures
In order to keep myself accountable for my writing tasks, I consider both external and internal deadlines. I make sure that external journal and conference deadlines are clearly indicated in my strategic plan (in #1), with a reasonable workload each week to reach those deadlines. If there are no external deadlines, I will work with my team to set internal deadlines to keep our writing on track and hold each other accountable. I may also create a personal accountability structure by asking a teammate or colleague in advance if they are willing to review my writing. By setting deadlines, I am more likely to keep on task and work toward my writing goals!
All that being said, my long-term strategic plan helps me to see the bigger picture and balance my workload. Weekly goals allow me to make continual progress by completing manageable tasks. And an accountability structure provides motivation to achieve both my short-term and long-term goals. At the end of the day (or week or semester), I reflect on my accomplishments, whether a small writing task or a larger writing goal. I remind myself that any progress is good progress and that it will all get done in the end.