Friday, December 12, 2008

Looking Ahead

The spring break (Easter holiday) begins on April 4 next year. There are 9 weeks from the beginning of February to the break, and 7 weeks from the break until the end of May. Those 17 weeks (including the one-week break) are what I usually propose to call your "working weeks". This morning, let me issue the Sixteen Week Challenge again.

Decide, first, how much writing time you have during those sixteen weeks. This will depend on your teaching load, your other commitments, and your writing goals. But the important thing is to find a finite amount 2 or 3-hour "writing blocks", i.e., time you can set aside in your calendar for writing. You could have anywhere from 1 to 5 of these in a given week. A maximum of around 80.

(I don't recommend planning to spend whole days on your writing. Plan always to spend half days writing.)

Next you need to get a sense of where your various writing projects are at. How far along are the texts you are working on. These could include your journal articles, your dissertation, books, and even book-proposals. (In the case of your dissertation or book, however, take each "project" to be a smaller unit, like a chapter.)

The question is: What stage will my writing projects be at on Monday, February 2, 2009 and where should they be on Friday, May 29? You need to answer this question in the light of the time you have given yourself. And you need to be able to fill in your writing blocks in advance with tasks that will bring you from where you are to where you want to be.

This is neither an exact science nor an authoritarian regime. Think of it like your teaching: you begin with a pretty clear sense of what you will be talking about and when (and where) you will be saying it. You don't know exactly what you will say, of course, but you know you will say something intelligent about, say, strategic management at, say, 9:10 AM on March 10. Your writing time should be just as firm.

This year, don't make a New Year's resolution about finally writing this or that paper, or finally getting disciplined about writing. Just take the Sixteen Week Challenge. Think of Palinurus.

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