Tips for Productive Academic Wri

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					Ten apparently paradoxical tips for writing
more productively during the normal work
    week (with less anxiety and guilt)
       Ruth Bridgstock - r.bridgstock@qut.edu.au




         „You‟ve got pussyfooting from 10 to 11,
         shilly-shallying until 12, then hemming
         and hawing for the rest of the afternoon.‟
Today’s session...
is about helping you to get more
academic writing done!

1. All about you: Your writing productivity profile
2. The writing productivity strategies
3. Combining 1 & 2: Your very own personalised
   writing productivity plan!


NB. This session is not about the mechanics of writing,
or skill/knowledge barriers to writing
Today’s session...
- fill out and hand in your ‘baseline writing productivity form’
- do the activities as they come up
- as we go through, note down strategies you’d like to try as
         we talk about them
- at the end, create a draft writing productivity plan for the
         next week
- sign up for a writing productivity group
         (optional, but highly recommended!)

After the session –
Fill out the online evaluation form
In a month’s time –
I’ll contact you via email to fill in a long-term follow-up writing
productivity form – you could win a $50 movie voucher
All about you.

In groups of 2-3...
1. Introduce yourselves – faculty, school, job title etc
2. What writing project/s are you working on right
   now?
3. Describe a recent time you sat down to write.
   What were you trying to write? What happened?
   What seemed to get in the way of being
   productive? What seemed to help?
Common writing pitfalls.

1. Dysphoria
(‘writing is depressing / painful / boring’)

2. Confidence issues / anxiety
(‘writing is scary’)

3. No time to write / competing commitments

4. Procrastination
( ‘I can’t start’ or ‘I just need to do some more research’ or ‘let
    me just clean out the fridge’ )
More common writing pitfalls.
5. Perfectionism
(‘I can’t finish/ I can’t hand it in’/ ‘It’s not QUITE done’/ ‘but wait,
    I have to check all the commas again’)

6. Impatience / overcommitment
(goals too big, want instant results)

7. Lack of inspiration or ideas

8. Environment problems
(‘I don’t have my own space’ / ‘it’s too noisy’)
In your groups…
    Q: What writing pitfalls do you suffer from? Are
    there any others that aren’t on the list?

Dysphoria
Confidence issues / anxiety
No time to write / competing commitments
Procrastination
Perfectionism
Impatience / overcommitment
Lack of inspiration or ideas
Environment problems

      Q: What are your productive writing ‘assets’?
Ruth’s answers…

1. What are your productive writing pitfalls?
- I’m a terrible procrastinator
- I expect way too much of myself (impatience)
- I don’t have time to write – too busy with teaching and admin!


2. What are your productive writing assets?
- I’m passionate about what I’m writing about
- I’ve got a good team to work with
The ten apparently paradoxical tips...

1.  Get too many goals
2.  You don’t have to do anything
3.  Write when you don’t feel like it
4.  Start before you’re ready
5.  Punish yourself often
6.  Schedule your play time
7.  Get a work environment that
    doesn’t work
8. Go have another coffee
9. Fail often
10. Feel like a fraud
   1. Get too many goals
Make writing a priority in your life.

Write for 5 minutes on:
(1) How much of a priority writing is in your life right now;
(2) How much of a priority you’d like it to be in the future; and
(3) Some thoughts on how you could make it more of a priority. What would you need
to give up / rearrange? Are you prepared to do this?

Write quickly, without rushing.
Don’t stop for anything - to look back, to cross anything out,
or to try to think of a word.


No time to write
 1. Get too many goals
 Get some writing goals
 …. & get some expert advice on which goals to pursue

 Publish 3 kinds of things:
 - what I love to write about
 - for the benefit of my field
 - strategically - for the top tier outlets

  Check to make sure you have reasonable expectations
 … or if this is a problem for you, you could try getting TOO MANY
 goals – the principle of ‘structured procrastination’

Impatience / overcommitment; procrastination
    While I was procrastinating about
     writing this presentation, I…
• Finished an article review
• Sorted out my flights to the UK
• Claimed my taxi fares for the Singapore
conference
• Outlined and wrote a book chapter
• Applied for some research seeding money
• Finished a whole bunch of boring statistics
• Watched a blockbuster movie (terrible) and two episodes of
  ‘The West Wing’ (sublime)
• Bought some really nice high heels
• Went running twice
1. Get too many goals
‘SMART’ goals

S        Specific     Exactly what do you want to achieve?

M        Measurable       How will you know when you’ve achieved it?

A        Attainable       Is it possible (and realistic) for you to achieve the goal?

R        Relevant         Why have you chosen this goal?

T        Time-bound        When does it need to be completed by?
e.g., ‘write and submit an article on xxx from chapter 4 of my dissertation for the
Journal of Education & Work by the end of October’

Special tip: put your top-level goals up on the wall near your work area!

Absolutely everyone
 1. Get too many goals
 ‘SMART’ goals

 S        Specific     Exactly what do you want to achieve?

 M        Measurable        How will you know when you’ve achieved it?

 A        Attainable        Is it possible (and realistic) for you to achieve the goal?

 R        Relevant          Why have you chosen this goal?

 T        Time-bound        When does it need to be completed by?
e.g., ‘write and submit an article on xxx from chapter 4 of my dissertation for the
Journal of Education & Work by the end of October’

Come up with a top-level SMART goal for a writing project
you are working on right now.
  1. Get too many goals
Have SMART goals for each section of
your writing project, down to a weekly or
daily level

Chunk projects into bite-sized actions   Everyone!



Keep chunking until you get the terror down to a
manageable level Procrastination, confidence issues & anxiety

 Come up with lower level SMART goals for a writing project
 you are working on right now. What are your goals for this
 month? What are your goals for this week?
2. You don’t HAVE to do
        anything
The tyranny of the shoulds
‘I should’
‘I have to’
‘I must’    The principle of choice... a sense of freedom
            ‘I choose’        Special tip: spend some time monitoring your
            ‘I will’          writing self-talk. Come up with replacements
            ‘I want to’       for all of your „shoulds‟, then write
                              replacements on a post-it and stick it on your
            ‘I can’           computer for easy reference.
                                „I want to write my article about xxxx‟, „I can
                                and will finish chapter 2‟

Dysphoria, procrastination, confidence issues & anxiety
      3. Write when you don’t feel
                 like it
The most productive writers write regularly even if:
(a) they aren’t inspired or ‘in the mood’
(b) The subject matter is boring
(c) They don’t have much free time
They assign daily time to writing, and they do it,
no matter how they feel.
“Through the practice of writing, they build a positive mood,
even an inspiration for writing” (Boice)

                          No binge writing!!
Dysphoria, no time to write, impatience, lack of ideas
    5. Write when you don’t feel
            4
               like it
           3.5

            3

           2.5

            2
                                                                   pages / day
           1.5

            1

           0.5                                                     From Boice, 1990

            0
                 Binge writing   Spontaneous   Scheduled writing
                                   writing     with punishment
Everyone
    3. Write when you don’t feel
           6
               like it
           5


           4


           3
                                                                 days between creative ideas
           2


           1
                                                                       From Boice, 1990

           0
               Binge writing   Spontaneous   Scheduled writing
                                 writing     with punishment

Everyone
      3. Write when you don’t feel
                 like it
                   Monitor your productivity

day date project                         words written time taken comments
Mon   19-Marlit review action research              437      2:00
Tue   20-Marlit review action research              350      1:30
Wed   21-Marlit review action research              150      0:30
Thu   22-Marlit review action research              210      0:30
Fri   23-MarARC grant app                           470      1:00
Sat   24-MarARC grant app                           510      2:30
Sun   25-Mar                                                      day off
Mon   26-MarARC grant app                           768      5:00binge!
Tue   27-Marentrepreneurship paper                  430      1:30
Wed   28-Marentrepreneurship paper                  301      2:00
Thu   29-Marentrepreneurship paper                  234      1:00
Fri   30-Marentrepreneurship paper                    0      0:30editing
Everyone
       4. Start before
        you’re ready
Once you have your goal, and you’ve chunked
it down… switch your mindset.
Just keep starting... ‘what can I do now towards my goal?’
procrastinators : aim to try the task for just 5 minutes

 perfectionists: engage in task quality triage
 Q: does it have to be perfect? Can it be just OK? How about
 if it’s a bit rubbish? Can anyone really tell the difference?
Special tip: remind yourself to aim for an imperfect, perfectly human
first effort

Procrastination, perfectionism, confidence issues / anxiety, dysphoria, impatience
    4. Start before you’re ready
     Suffering from writer’s block?




                                       Try generative writing instead
Procrastination, perfectionism, lack of inspiration / ideas
5. Punish (and reward!)
     yourself often




Intrinsic (internal) motivation and Flow
(Csíkszentmihályi, 1998)
    5. Punish (and reward!)
         yourself often

Try ‘The Martini Method’
of extrinsic motivation?




              Or even punish yourself for not writing?
    5. Punish (and reward!)
         yourself often
    3.5

     3

    2.5

     2

    1.5
                                                                pages/day
     1
                                                                creative ideas per page
    0.5                                                         of writing

     0

          Binge writing Spontaneous   Scheduled    Scheduled
                          writing      writing      writing +
                                                  punishment

Be careful! Extrinsic motivators and punishers can reduce intrinsic motivation!!
  5. Punish (and reward!)
       yourself often

When to use extrinsic motivators and punishers:

to get you started (i.e., reward starting)
if intrinsic motivation is low (e.g., it’s boring subject matter)
When the work doesn’t involve creative ideas

           A natural extrinsic motivator / punisher
            (which causes uncreative binges) is
                 The Dreaded Deadline!!!!
6. Schedule your
    play time


Enter into an agreement with yourself to enjoy life & guilt-free play
...which will have the paradoxical effect of making
you more productive at work!

Special tip: write yourself a formal „work-life balance‟ contract and sign it. Share it
with others.

Procrastination, perfectionism, anxiety, dysphoria, lack of time
6. Schedule your
    play time
The Unschedule:
- only schedule fun, meetings, and appointments
 - make sure you have at least one day off work per week
 - block out time every day for writing (it’s a priority!!) even if it’s
only half an hour
 - only write in writing and other work tasks after you have
completed a quality half hour
 - work on writing for an absolute maximum of 15 hours per
week, and only 2-3 hours per day
(Fiore, 1989)

Procrastination, perfectionism, anxiety, dysphoria, lack of time
     7. Go have another coffee
The motivational and
educational benefits of co-
authoring

Writing productivity groups & the
‘carrot-shaped stick’
 - 3-4 people at the same career stage
(no professors!)
 - meet weekly or fortnightly
 - share goals, obstacles, strategies
 - be accountable… and have fun!

Everyone!
  8. Get a work environment that
            doesn’t work




Is it a real problem? If so, get it fixed

                                     ...or is it an excuse?
     9. Fail often
You WILL get rejected
You WILL get negative feedback
…journal acceptance rates are
typically 5 – 30%

Writing is a developmental process.
It’ll be a better piece of work in the end!
Dust yourself off and keep going




 Everyone
   9. Fail often



Special tip #1: start a ‘brag book’ (for your eyes only) to
remind yourself of your successes when life gets tough
Special tip #2: talk with others about their experiences
with negative feedback and rejection
Special tip #3: make a plan for rejection, but don’t
anticipate rejection

Everyone
  10. Feel like a
      fraud
‘imposter syndrome’ and
faking it (authentically!) til
you make it

Keep feeling a little bit insecure – & be open to new opportunities


Don’t let uncertainty or the fact that something’s new stop you!!


Confidence issues / anxiety
 Coming up with your own action plan for
 writing productivity…
Make writing a priority
                                      Generative writing
SMART writing goals – with different
                                      Reward yourself
ends in mind
                                      - ‘the martini method’
Structured procrastination
                                      Punish yourself
The principle of choice
                                      Work-life balance contract
Chunk projects into bite-sized actions
                                      Unschedule your life
Write regularly
                                      Co-authoring and mentoring
Monitor your productivity
                                      Colleague support and writing
Keep starting
                                      productivity groups
Task quality triage’
                                      Sort out your work space
                                      Planning for failure & becoming
                                      resilient
                                      Become an ‘authentic impostor’

				
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posted:4/16/2010
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