How to be Productive in Academia

  • Make an effort to write every day, during the time when your brain and body are at their best (see above).
  • Allow yourself to write “sh*^ty first drafts.” Do not try to spit out the perfect word/sentence/paragraph on the first try. Write freely, edit later.
  • Do not start out trying to write for hours at a time. If you are not used to writing regularly, aim for 30 minutes or even just 10 minutes. If you write for 10 minutes a day, that is almost an hour of writing per week. If you do 30 minutes a day, that adds up to 2.5 hours! The Pomodoro technique can be very helpful here.
  • Join a writing group. For about two years, I was a member of Academic Writing Club, an online group where professors or grad students from related disciplines are joined by a “coach”, create weekly goals for themselves, and check in daily with their progress. It is not free, but in my opinion worth it (and you can probably use your research budget). If you are looking for a free writing group, look for people around your university who are willing to get together and write!
  • Proofs of accepted papers that need to be turned around to the publisher.
  • Revise-and-resubmits.
  • Working papers that are closest to submission, whether these are brand new ones or rejected ones looking for a new home.
  • Projects that are closest to becoming working papers (e.g., ones where the analysis is complete).
  • Projects in the data analysis/model-building/general research stage.
  • Projects that are newer than everything above, a.k.a. research ideas.

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