3 Simple Tips to Help You Get More Writing Done

Writing is one of the most important things you can do to improve your career, particularly in higher education.  Whether you’re a doctoral student working on a dissertation or a faculty member doing research to get tenure, writing is crucial for success.  However, finding the time to write proves problematic for nearly everyone.

Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

In today’s post, I have 3 simple tips to help you get more writing done.

There are many great books out there on how to write more (and I have read almost all of them).  Yet, these three simple tips are the most important to make sure you get your writing goals accomplished.

1.  Write every day.  In his landmark study, Robert Boice found that faculty who write every day produce nearly 10 times the amount of typical faculty.  Writers (and you need to start to think of yourself as a writer) write every day.

My goal is to write 5 out of every 7 days.  I consider this my writing work week.  Building up the habit and practice of writing every day provides great benefits.

One of the best benefits is that it builds up your writing muscles.  If you want to train for a marathon, do you just start running?  Of course not.  You practice and slowly build up endurance.  Writing every day does the same thing for your writing ability.

2.  Schedule writing time as an appointment.  If you’re anything like me, what gets scheduled gets done.  If it isn’t on my calendar, the odds of completing a task aren’t good.

You have to schedule your writing time and hold yourself to this appointment.  If someone asks to meet with you at this time, you can’t.  You already have a meeting.

I often used to tell my dissertation advisees to continue the same schedule that they used for taking classes.  For example, your friends and family are already used to you being gone a couple of nights a week for class.  Keep the same mentality for your writing.  If you wouldn’t skip class for another engagement, don’t skip your writing session either.

Writing is just as important– if not more so– than any other appointment you may have so treat it that way.

3.  Don’t write more than 2 hours at a time.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever done this.  You’re up against a deadline and as a result you sit down and write for hours to finish the assignment.  You finish the project, but it isn’t your best work and you’re exhausted.  There are other writing projects that need your attention, but you can’t stand the thought of sitting down to work on them.

If we’re being honest, we probably all have our hands up.  This is the normal way of writing.  And it just plain sucks.  It is a horrible cycle that leaves us tired, bitter, and leads to procrastination.  This is binge writing and it may be the worst kind of writing.

Not only does binge writing limit our ability to work on our current project, but it keeps us from starting our next one too.  Instead, I suggest you do not ever write for more than two hours at a time.  Preferably, I don’t want you to write more than one hour in a single sitting.

It is difficult to be productive and produce high quality writing for longer than this.  And if you’re following my first two tips, there is no need to binge write.  Think about it, you could write for 10 hours one day or for 2 hours a day for 5 days.  Which do you believe would leave you more relaxed and productive?

Many of us have picked up horrible writing habits over the years of all nighters and last minute binge writing.

It is no wonder that writing causes so much stress.  However, my 3 simple tips to help you get more writing done can help.

Writing is critically important to your success.  Start these tips today and you’ll be amazed at how much more progress you will make and how much less stress you will experience.

Happy writing!

Hey Congress, Maybe You Need Some Political Science

Earlier this week, I attended a grants conference put on by the National Science Foundation.  A few hundred faculty researchers and administrators gathered to discuss the NSF funding process.  The NSF supports the U.S. science research infrastructure and is responsible for much of the research success higher education has enjoyed since World War II.


Photo Credit: Erik Drost


We all know about the hyperpartisanship in Washington as well as the anti-intellectual vibe in many political corners.  Historically, federal science policy has not been directly impacted by partisanship as much as other aspects of government.  There is a long history of rhetoric against seemingly wasteful science, but specific actions have been few and far between.

Sadly, this is changing.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and one of the staunchest deficit hawks in Congress has decided to attack NSF.  Specifically, he has sought to defund the political science funding awarded by NSF.

Coburn suggests that NSF should be funding “real” science such as biology or chemistry. Further, he contends politics should be left to politicians and voters not the research community.

Lessons for Higher Ed from Saved by the Bell: The College Years

Popular media portrayals of higher education play a powerful role in influencing perceptions of college. Movies and television shows set expectations for people that may never review an institutional report, visit our web site, or read our marketing materials. As faculty and administrators in higher education, we need to recognize these trends are all around us. Let’s take for example that great 90’s classic, Saved by the Bell: The College Years.

Saved by the Bell was a television show airing in the early 1990’s focusing on a group of high school students and their exploits. Following the high school version, a college sequel aired for one year in primetime following some of the students to Cal U (loosely based on Cal-Berkeley).

Higher education plays a role in many popular television shows such a The Big Bang Theory and, of course, Community. Given its nature, none may have hit on as many stereotypes as Saved by the Bell: The College Years.

Listen to Dr. Huxtable. There is No Debate. College is Worth It.

In a classic scene from the first episode of the Cosby Show, Theo tells his father that he isn’t going to college.  Using Monopoly money, Dr. Huxtable explains the cost of life and the insufficiency of a “regular” salary of someone without a college education.

The scene works in part because of the obvious financial advantages of going to college.  This episode first aired on September 20, 1984.  For thirty years, the question of the value of college has been settled.  How do I know?  Cliff Huxtable told me so.

Yet, it seems every few months there is a story in the press questioning the value of college such as this one from The Economist back in April.

I’m all for debate.  We have serious issues facing how we finance higher education as I’ve detailed in this space before.  We should debate these questions.  However, the constant stories about whether college is worth it aren’t a debate.  Put simply, they are dangerous.

College Athletics on Trial, But Problems There Since the Beginning

Last week, I published this op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  I wanted to share it here too because I believe it is important for understanding how the history of intercollegiate athletics plays a part in today’s challenges.

Photo credit: Associated Press

In a courtroom in Oakland, Calif., this week, current and former college athletes finally are getting their day in court.

The athletes are suing the NCAA for a share of the profits made from television contracts to broadcast intercollegiate athletics. The athletes contend that the NCAA made millions of dollars off of them while not properly compensating them.