Does this sound familiar? You sit down in front of your screen, you open your document, and you pick up where you left off. You write until you get distracted by email, until your next meeting, or until you're too tired to continue.
Uhh...guilty. Or at least formerly guilty.
Until I started reflecting on my writing regularly. Until I started to Review & Plan.
If you're not doing this to advance your academic writing, GET ON IT. It will change the way you work.
How to get started with Review & Plan
- REVIEW: At the end of your next writing session, take 1-2 minutes to review what you did. How did it go? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? Write it down—create a separate document, use a journal app (I like Day One), or if you're a stationery nerd like me, use it as an excuse to buy a new notebook.
- PLAN: Take another minute or two to plan your next block of writing. It doesn't matter if your next writing session is tomorrow or next week, or whether you have 45 minutes or two hours to write. Think about how much time you’ll have, and what you think you can reasonably accomplish. Write down your plan.
- REPEAT: Then, when that next writing session is complete, do the same thing: Review & Plan.
- And so on, forevermore, ad infinitum, etc.
When you sit down to write, make sure that the only thing you're doing during that block of time is writing. Protect your time by getting rid of distractions like email, phone, Internet...all of it. Focus.
One of the best ways to focus is to do Pomodoros: time yourself for 20-25 minutes, and then take a break. If you're in the early stages of writing and you need to get words on a page, use this system to Take a Dump.
What Review & Plan will do for your writing
It builds self-awareness and confidence. You’ll start getting a much better sense of what you can accomplish in a particular block of time, so that when you plan your writing sessions, you’ll actually be able to achieve what you plan. This might take a bit of practice, so don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time.
Advanced Review & Plan, for the keeners
Once you're comfortable with daily (or session-based) Review & Plan, start zooming out and using it for your weeks. I do this on Sundays with a cup of tea—or a glass of wine, depending on how bad the week has been. Then do it for the month, the quarter, the year. And so on, forevermore, ad infinitum, etc.
What do you think? How could this work for you? Let me know in the comments!