Most academic women I work with in my courses, writing retreats, and one-on-one writing strategy sessions cite time as their biggest obstacle to writing and publishing more. We are just too over-burdened with the sheer number of seemingly incongruous tasks that make up the academic life. It really can be overwhelming.
This is where a system for academic project management can really help. Systems are meant to save you time by regularizing the way you do repeated activities. So let’s break down three important aspects of a writing project management system that will save you time and energy and help you write and publish more.
1. Use templates to make common writing tasks repeatable
So much of our writing energy goes to figuring out what to do next. A writing project management system eliminates this time spent thinking and planning at the beginning of every writing session.
Every writing project we work on needs to be broken down into tasks that are doable in our blocks of scheduled writing time. If you have a pre-made list of tasks for, let’s say, completing a revise and resubmit, then you don’t have to spend time thinking about what you’ll do first, or how you’ll break down that project into tasks. You just get out your revise-and-resubmit template and get to work.
If you’d like a copy of my revise and resubmit template, you can go here and download it now. I use Trello for academic project management. If you’d like to learn my complete system for academic writing project management using Trello, I’m offering a workshop on April 11th, 2018 at 11:00 EST.
2. Schedule in project management time
For people short on time, it might seem counter-intuitive to schedule more time for project management. But this is a short, focused planning session that will save you so much time and energy later. You need about 15 minutes on Sunday evening and then 10 minutes at the end of your day, right before you pick up your bag and leave your office.
In the 15-minute Sunday night session, you look at the big picture of the week. Page through your paper calendar or flip through your electronic calendar. Make sure you have a way to capture to-dos that float into your head as you think about your week. Again, you can use Trello for this, sticky notes in a calendar, or a bullet journal. The idea is to begin your week with the big picture of what needs to get done. After you’ve seen the big picture, schedule into your calendar the first task that you will work on Monday morning.
For example, I have a writing block scheduled or Monday mornings from 8:30-10:00 a.m. I don’t wait until Monday at 8:30 to figure out what I’ll work on during that block. I figure that out in my Sunday project management time. I go into Trello, look at my writing projects, and figure out the task I’ll work on during that block. Usually this involves reviewing my academic writing project management template and identifying the next step.
In the 10-minute end-of-day session, you look at what you’ve accomplished, pat yourself on the back for everything you checked off your list, let go of the things that didn’t get done with grace and self-forgiveness, and then choose the tasks you will work on the next day.
3. Trust the system
Once you’ve set up templates for repeatable tasks and taken the time for project management, you need to trust the system and try it out for at least two weeks. I confess that I love to make templates and I know that I need to plan project management time, but as soon as I get a little stressed I would push that all to the side. To combat this, I’ve adopted the mantra “trust the system.”
When I want to ditch the plan I made the day before in response to something new that’s come up, I just tell myself “trust the system.” I work on the things I planned to work on and deal with fitting in the new task when I get to my project management planning time at the end of the day.
If you’re interested in implementing an academic writing project management system, I’d love to show you the one I developed using Trello. I’ll be offering a workshop on April 11th, 2018 at 11:00 EST. You’ll get all my Trello boards and templates (the whole system—not just the ones I give away for free), and a recording of the workshop that you can go back to again and again.