Summer should be the time for academic writing, but if you’re a teaching oriented person (as I am), it’s very easy to become consumed with teaching-related tasks. In many ways teaching is more seductive to me during the summer because it’s when all the fun planning happens for the new classes I’m teaching in the next year – textbook and article selection, puzzling out the right pedagogical tools to employ to engage students in the material, dig around the internet for new case studies, demonstrations, and games. All of that is so fun and writing doesn’t get any easier just because it’s the summer.
To keep myself motivated, I check in with myself every Sunday or Monday to review both what I want to get done in the next week and what I have done in the past week. I usually sketch out a plan using this nice notepad from Rifle Paper Co, which makes scheduling a marginally more pleasant activity.
But I also want a record of what I’ve gotten done in the past week. I never feel like I’m getting enough done, even though I’m working on writing (and on teaching prep, usually) every day. The gains can be so incremental that it’s difficult to see how they’re going to add up to anything at all. To put it all in perspective, I’ve made myself a little worksheet to fill out every week as I work on my writing.
Here is my Weekly Productivity Template that I use for myself. I print one of these out, fill it out every week, and file it away so that at the end of the month (and the summer) I can see what I’ve done. It’s much better for my motivation to focus on what I have accomplished, instead of dwelling unproductively on what I haven’t done.
It recognizes that reading (and re-reading!) is an important part of the writing process, but not as important as actually getting the writing done. (But still, it’s nice to look back at all the reading I’ve done and feel like I’ve wasted a little less time than I thought.) In my mind, reading only counts if I’ve done a memo and/or fully annotated the paper with my thoughts on how I’ll integrate it into my literature review. It puts my productivity in the context of my overall goals for the month, so I can check whether what I’m doing is actually contributing to the bigger picture. And it also gives me the chance to think about how I’ve done self-care – have I properly rewarded myself for all my hard work so I stay motivated and don’t burn out?
Hope you find it useful!