With a new semester comes changes to your writing schedule. During the summer, you may have had long blocks of writing time away from faculty meetings, office hours, and course prep. Once the semester starts, you may only have short writing blocks —as short as 15-30 minutes a day— when you’re teaching, so it’s important to use them effectively.
When I work with writers who have limited time, I advise them to work in short writing blocks. Many writers object to short writing blocks because they feel as if they don’t have long enough to get in the zone, or a flow state, or once they’re on a roll they’ll have to stop. These are valid concerns, but if the alternative is no writing for days or even weeks, it might be time to rethink those objections.
First, steady and consistent writing will facilitate your getting into the zone when you have a longer time to write. Touching your work often keeps it top of mind. Also, there are plenty of tasks you can do that don’t require you to be in the zone. For instance, nobody needs to achieve a flow state to update their Zotero library.
What you can do during short writing blocks
Here are some examples of writing-related tasks you can work on in 30 minutes or less:
- Set a timer and write as many words as you can.
- Format a few citations
- Conduct keyword research to start or continue a literature review
- Copyedit a paragraph or two
- Read an article or part of an article
If you want to figure out what you can do in 30 minutes, then set a timer for 30 minutes and start working. At the end, write down what you did. You can use that information to plan future work sessions where you have short writing blocks.
Bonus Tip: When you first start planning your writing in 15-30 minute blocks, keeping a list of potential activities nearby will make your planning go so much faster.
One way to measure your work time is with the pomodoro technique. With that technique, you work for twenty-five minutes, then take a five-minute break. You repeat this process as many times as you like. If you want to see your short writing blocks add up, then download this FREE pomodoro timer.
Click the image below to get the tracker.