It’s hard to write during term time. But it is possible.
Let’s take a closer look at what your term looks like
Some of your work is scheduled. You know that you will be teaching that class every Tuesday at 2 p.m. (or whatever) for the next 10 weeks or so. You’ve probably also scheduled weekly office hours in which you will be available to students for class-related questions or general advising.
It is tempting to try to schedule everything else you have to do, too. A routine is comforting. It drastically reduces decision fatigue. If you write every Monday at 10 a.m., you don’t have to decide anything. You get up on Monday morning knowing that at 10 a.m. you are going to write, just like on Tuesday you know you are going to teach.
Routine also helps you establish habits. If you write every (work) day at the same time, it becomes habitual. No decisions needed. Pegging that writing block to some other regular daily activity (e.g. putting it right after breakfast or lunch) further reinforces that daily habit.
In reality, your schedule is not that regular.
Some days have more time scheduled by others than other days. You may not teach every day. And you probably have very little control over when you teach. This messes with your plan to write every day at the same time.
Not only that, but your weeks vary considerably, too. The scheduled classroom time is the same every week but everything elses fluctuates:
- preparing lectures and seminars
- administrative duties
- managing teaching assistants
- student advising
- post-graduate supervision
- committee meetings
- preparing for committee meetings or doing work arising from committee meetings
The uneven nature of these activities means either that regularly scheduled writing time gets cancelled to fit in some irregular demand, or that you try to shoehorn these irregular but not unexpected activities into your week, often by working evenings and weekends.
All this can result in frustration that your carefully made plans are going off the rails or that it is just not possible to do all the work you are supposed to do in a “normal” work week. It is not that you lack willpower, stick-with-it-ness, or are otherwise flawed. Nor is it that you can’t accomplish what’s important in a “normal” work week.
You need to plan differently
Your plan needs to account for the irregular but not unpredictable demands on your time. And you need to set goals for term-time writing that are achievable alongside those multiple demands.
Foundations of an Academic Writing Practice is a set of recordings and PDFs that support you in developing a writing practice, including making plans that work and revising them as circumstances change (cyclicly or unexpectedly).
Or, start with the 15-min/day Academic Writing Challenge. I know you can find 15 minutes a day to write. The challenge will help you learn what you can achieve if you do that consistently.
This post was originally published on Aug 7, 2014. It was edited August 10, 2015.