Do you feel like you have enough time for your scholarship right now? Are you worried that you won’t be able to make time for your writing until you’re back in your favorite coffee shop, latte in hand and “concentration” playlist queued up? You don’t have to wait for the stars to be aligned to get back to your writing. In fact, there are a few things you can do right now to get writing back on your calendar.
Stop worrying about your slides.
I can say with a lot of certainty that many of you are agonizing over your remote teaching. You’re researching the best microphones, light rings, and screen recorders for your online courses. I’ve seen video trailers for courses and all sorts of fancy slide decks.
If this is fun for you, do it. But no not allow a perfectionist fantasy to lead you down the “perfect image for this slide” rabbit hole. Develop a slide template and shift your focus to being present for your students. Buy the top-rated microphone in your price range and move on. I wrote about effective course prep here. Being a supportive, empathetic instructor is what matters right now, and that requires minimal preparation.
Schedule your work session as a meeting on your calendar.
I have a client who gave his writing time a name and made it a recurring appointment. That way, when people ask him if he’s busy, he says yes, because he has a meeting. You can do the same. It’s up to you to honor this meeting, so set an intention for what you’d like to accomplish during the work session. You’ll be more motivated to work if you have a reason to work.
Establish your MVS – Minimum Viable Session
This isn’t the time for aspirational writing goals. Set a minimum viable session, or the smallest amount of work you can do to feel as if you accomplished something. It can be touching your work three times a week or working on your research for 30 minutes a day. Make sure the MVS is realistic so you don’t give yourself reasons to dismiss it. In fact, you can make it so low that you’d feel uncomfortable not doing it.
Here’s an example: I’ve been journaling every day for the past 60 days. My MVS is a single sentence. That’s it! When I look back on my writing, there are just a few days where I only wrote one sentence. But that carrot of the single sentence made any excuse I came up with laughable. After all, it was only a sentence! Two months later, I can say I have a journaling practice, and I feel downright prolific.
Decide where you’ll slack.
I’ve been reading the book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff and he uses the term strategic incompetence, first developed by Josh Davis in his book Two Awesome Hours. Acuff states that to implement strategic incompetence, “you need to decide ahead of time which activities in life you’re going to be bad at” (37). Now, before I move on, let me be clear: not everyone has the luxury of messing up. Some people — namely minoritized individuals or people with no seniority — are severely sanctioned for the slightest mistakes. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t identify the places you can slack with little adverse consequence.
Here are two places I slack: First, I rarely straighten my desk. I’ve decided this isn’t a priority for me. I also limit my weeknight cooking. I’ve become strategically incompetent at food preparation! This means I buy frozen vegetables because they don’t require chopping or cleaning, and I stick to a fairly predictable menu during the week. Less work in the evening also means more time to relax. You might be asking yourself what the hell that has to do with writing. Well, I’m not sitting at my desk during the day dreading all the cooking I have to do. I’m also limiting the decisions I have to make which alleviates stress and increases focus. Finally, I’m relaxing in the evening so I’m refreshed in the morning. You write more efficiently when you’re feeling refreshed, right?
Within the next week, I encourage you to try at least one of these tactics. Then, write about the outcome. How did you feel? What did you write? How will you maintain your new habit?
Which tactic will you try first?