How can academics find more time to write?

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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How can you find more time to write? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.


What is the best way to find more time to write? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.

I have a question from Maya Almanzar, a professor in Madrid, Spain. Here’s what she’s asked by email….

“I am so busy working on creating Zoom lectures for my students, supervising PhD students and having meetings with my Dean, that my own writing has fallen by the wayside. It’s so easy to postpone my writing, even though I’m required to publish regularly in peer-reviewed journals. How can I find more time to write?”

Thanks for your question, Maya. Many of my clients ask me about time and, in fact, I’ve already done at least one video on the topic, see link below. But I’m going to answer your query in particular because academics face more pressure than ever these days, having to learn Zoom and lecture from home.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get control of your mindset. Do you see that right now, you’re putting everyone else first: your younger students, your PhD candidates, your Dean. I’m not saying these people are unimportant. Of course, you need to pay attention to them! I’m just suggesting you pay attention to yourself first.

Are you familiar with the financial idea known as “paying yourself first”? If you use this principle, you make regular contributions to your savings account, BEFORE you pay bills, buy groceries or buy anything else. You’re not waiting until the end of the month to save what’s left over. You save first, every month, and this becomes a very powerful practice because it prioritizes saving.

Of course, you still pay your bills! Trust me, I’m not suggesting ignoring bills! But you save first. And I suggest you use this principle with respect to writing, too. Write first. Before you do anything else.

I know this may sound hard to do — perhaps even unwise — if you have your Dean breathing down your neck. But the principle is based on the concept that important work should always take priority over urgent work.

I know. That’s a bit of a mind-bender. Things are urgent because they are problems, complications, or dilemmas suggesting that they need immediate attention. But you should still do your most important work — your writing — first.

That’s because most of us could spend all day, every day responding to urgent matters. But then we’d never get anything important done. And writing is essential to your career. You really do need to MAKE the time for it.

This is why I strongly suggest putting your writing first. Because if you build a wall around yourself, for a short amount of time every day, you’ll be able to get your writing done and then have the rest of the day for dealing with your Zoom lectures, your students and your Dean.

Write for five to 15 minutes every morning — before you answer phone calls and especially before you check email — and you will be able to build a sustainable writing habit. I don’t believe that your students and Dean will be unable to wait for five to 15 minutes!

Writing needn’t take an entire day, or even three or four hours. In fact, you can start with just five to 15 minutes and that will allow you to build up a head of steam that will help you get important papers started.

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the American writer and Quaker William Penn.

Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”

Maya, many academics box themselves into a corner by trying to schedule too much time for writing. Instead, it’s better to start with a small, sustainable goal and do it every day. True, when you’re closer to finishing your paper you will need to devote more time to it. But for now, allow yourself to get started by doing a little bit of work, every day.


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes. 


How to find more time to write

Your Happy First Draft