Episode #210

Deciding Time To Task

In this episode, I explore the universal struggle of managing writing time in academia. Learning how to accurately estimate how long it takes to complete a paper is one obstacle academics must overcome to publish more. 


First, I highlight the two non-negotiables for effective writing project management. Then, I present two distinct methods to help you estimate the time required to complete a task. I share real-life examples to help you decide which task management method aligns with how you work. Whether you prefer data-driven observations or decisive time allocation, the ultimate goal is to enhance accuracy and predictability in estimating your time to a task. Adopting these strategies can effectively unclog your writing pipeline and increase your article publication rate.


If you’re tired of mismanaging your writing time, tune in for valuable insights on task list preparation, scheduling writing sessions, and making informed decisions about the time allocated to each task. Don’t let the writing process overwhelm you – tune in for actionable tips to boost your productivity and achieve your publishing goals.


Non-Negotiables For Successful Academic Writing Project Management

Write a task list. While a task list might seem simple, it is a multi-faceted tool that can generate many questions. How granular should the list be? How do you estimate the time to complete the tasks? Are the tasks ordered chronologically? Does it account for work that might be completed by others? A practical task list must be accurate and thorough. 


Block out time to write. Writing must take a central place in your career. To do that, academics need to honor dedicated writing time during scheduled working hours and consistently keep boundaries around their writing time.

Estimating Time to Task

It is common for academics to underestimate how long it takes to complete a task. When a task takes two or three times as long as predicted, it is easy to get lost in negative feelings that further delay the writing progress. Here are two ways to master time estimation.

  1. Collect data by systematically observing yourself. It is more important to be predictable and accurate than fast. Predictably helps engineer successful moments, ensuring you are true to your word when committing to others. This process is a pillar of the Navigate program.
  2. Decide how long a task will take. Parkinson’s Law states that a task will expand to the amount of time you give it. So, instead of allowing yourself to work on a writing task for an unlimited number of writing sessions, put a firm time allotment on it. Decide when the time is done, the task is done. This method takes discipline, focus, letting go of perfectionism and self-trust. 


Everyone’s brains work differently, and these methods will require trial and error. 


“If you only have time blocked to write, but you don’t have a task list, you are likely to piddle away your writing time. If you don’t have a good direction or if you don’t have set tasks for what you are going to work on, your writing block is wasted. Similarly, if you have a task list but you don’t have writing dates and times set on your calendar or you are unable to hold boundaries around those times, you also won’t move forward because you’re always trying to work your writing in at the edges of your time.” 


“Intellectual problems are not all the same, so sometimes as we work through our thoughts in writing, it takes longer than other times because of the complexity of the problem or because you’re trying to work out a nuance. You’re not a robot so you won’t always be able to predict time based on past results. However, collecting data on yourself and systematically observing how you work will help you make better and more refined predictions.”


We’ve opened the waitlist for our next cohort of Navigate: Your Writing Roadmap®. Check out the program details and get on the waitlist here.



  1. Our 12-week Navigate: Your Writing Roadmap® program helps tenure-track womxn and nonbinary professors to publish their backlog of papers so that their voice can have the impact they know is possible. Get on the waitlist here!
  2. Cathy’s book, Making Time to Write: How to Resist the Patriarchy and Take Control of Your Academic Career Through Writing is available in print! Learn how to build your career around your writing practice while shattering the myths of writing every day, accountability, and motivation, doing mindset work that’s going to reshape your writing, and changing academic culture one womxn and nonbinary professor at a time. Get your print copy today or order it for a friend here!
  3. Want to train with us for free on your campus? Now you can when you recommend our Scholar’s Voice™ Faculty Retreats to a decision-maker on your campus! Download the brochure with the retreat curriculum and both in-person and online retreat options here.
  4. If you would like to hear more from Cathy for free, please subscribe to the weekly newsletter, In the Pipeline, at scholarsvoice.org. It’s a newsletter that she personally writes that goes out once a week with writing and publication tips, strategies, inspiration, book reviews and more..





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