Write first - This little tip from Joan Bolker's book on Writing your dissertation in 15 minutes is sheer magic. Putting my writing as the first order of business for the day, before checking email, before getting involved in anything else, has created a fundamental shift in my writing habits, a shift that I hope I can maintain for years to come. As part of this, something I learned from Notorious Ph.D., is making a note to myself the night before and getting out the materials I need to do that writing task, so that I'm ready to go first thing.
The Academic Ladder Writing Club - Daily accountability, even though its virtual, seems key to my productivity. I could take notes elsewhere on my progress, but this on-line tracking system ensures that I continue to track my progress daily. It also keeps me from feeling isolated in my writing struggles -- I can see that others have similar things going on, and everyone is encouraging and helpful. I've also learned countless productivity tips from other people enrolled in this club, like the one I'll describe next.
The Sunday Meeting - This came from Kerry Ann Rockquemore, and if you haven't heard of it, go read her own description of it here. Go ahead, I'll wait. It sounds like something ridiculously obvious, and I thought I was a good planner before, but this is a killer system that has completely revolutionized my work habits. I'm much more conscious about how I spend my time, and I'm much less likely to get derailed by an hour watching t.v. or cleaning the house. Though I heard about it a while back, I didn't try it until recently. I mean, this all seems patently obvious, and seems like stuff we all do anyway - make a list of goals and tasks, put them in your calendar, right? Well, there's something about this system that makes it more effective, maybe its the longer-range of the planning and how everything is connected to a semester plan. I first tried this system a couple of months ago, and my productivity has probably doubled since I started this, (No, I'm not exaggerating). I guess this is the academic equivalent of the reason for McDonalds success- everyone knows you're supposed to keep restaurants clean to improve your business, but McDonalds is one of the few businesses that consistently does this. (Hopefully this will translate into McDonalds' level of academic success for me.)
Earplugs - I used to use earplugs while writing, but since I had been writing in a quiet and undistracting place for so long, I fell out of that habit. This week, since I've been reading Wendy Belcher's book, I had to revisit the question of my work site, and what improvements I will make to it. That's when I realized that I need to go back to the earplugs to block out other sounds around me, so I can keep writing. I briefly considered purchasing noise cancelling headphones, but some of the reviews I read of these noted that earplugs were quite effective, which reminded me, yes, they are.
Setting a timer- Timed writing sessions, which I learned from the Academic Ladder, seem to make a huge difference for me. Maybe knowing that there is a finite stopping point helps me to focus on the task at hand for a set time period.
What about you? What's been effective in making you productive?