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Hi writers! I bet that things are really starting to ramp up in your work weeks.

Not that summer is a lazy time for academics, by any means, but at least you have more flexibility with your schedule.

Now that the semester’s up and running again, you need to focus and prioritize your book writing time much, much more.

That is, if you hope to get anything done besides teaching, service, and the writing projects you’ve committed to that have clear deadlines.

So today I’m going to be talking about a really common question that comes up for authors, which is: how do you juggle multiple research projects at the same time?

So nearly everyone I’ve worked with has had to split their time between different writing projects.

Most people are working on journal articles at the same time as their book.

Or they have grant or fellowship proposals due.

Or they’re co-authoring pieces with other scholars or their own students.

Or they have to put together job market materials or a tenure portfolio.

The list goes on and on. But how effectively they juggle everything is an entirely different story!

All the things I just mentioned have more immediate due dates and often more accountability than a book does, so it’s natural that they would get prioritized.

You might have an externally imposed deadline given by a journal editor for a revise and resubmit or an exact time that you have to submit a grant proposal or else it won’t be considered.

If you’re also teaching and serving on committees, you can see how book writing is the first thing to drop off the list.

And this is not even taking into account the time you spend caring for children and family members, maintaining your social relationships, and investing in your own health and well-being.

The problem is that the longer you delay writing your book, the harder it is to pick it back up and maintain momentum.

What you don’t want is for your book to come to feel like, in the words of one of my clients, an “albatross”—which is defined as “a psychological burden that feels like a curse.”

We do not want that!

The trick is to get your mindset and your habits in line so that you can commit to writing your book in a way that feels good to you.

And that means working on it consistently and feeling like you’re making progress.

So today I want to share three different strategies that my coaching clients have used to juggle multiple projects.

You can experiment with one or all of these with a spirit of curiosity and figure out what works best for you and your schedule right now.

#1: The first strategy is to switch off weeks.

One of my group coaching clients—who’s an assistant professor at a research institution—was working on a major article and her book manuscript at the same time.

She was lucky enough to not be teaching that semester, so she was able to focus nearly all her work time on writing.

She had created a semester schedule where she would spend an entire week working on article-related tasks and then the next week completely focused on book-related tasks.

Of course, there were times when issues would pop up or she would spend a few more days on one than the other, but for the most part, she stuck to her semester plan and met all of her goals at the end of our time together.

Now, it’s important to note that—like many of my clients—this person had already gone through the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (or NCFDD) program, which really focuses on effective scheduling and maintaining writing productivity for early scholars.

Here’s a link to their very useful and free semester planning resources.

So onto the pros and cons of this approach.

The major pro is that you have solid periods of focused effort to move a project forward.

Knowing you have a full week can give you a sense of space and allow you to be more present with what’s in front of you.

At the same time, you have peace of mind knowing that you will be giving your other project your full attention again soon.

The cons are that this strategy will likely not work that well if you have more than two on-going projects.

Also, you really need to have a clear, detailed, and realistic plan in place ahead of time. So for those of you who don’t pride yourself on your planning skills, this might not be the best approach for you.

Okay, so moving on!

#2) My second tip for juggling multiple projects is to switch off writing blocks within the same day.

One of my current 1:1 coaching clients—who’s also an assistant professor at a research university—has been juggling THREE different major writing projects.

Her solution? To work on each of them for a little bit each workday.

We started working together at the beginning of summer, and it was extremely important for her to be able to implement strong boundaries with work that were lost during the pandemic.

She wanted to stop working at night and on weekends, as well as to spend a few weeks traveling.

The other thing we needed to take into account was that her preferred work style included doing several different pomodoros of writing every weekday.

So for those of you who don’t know, the Pomodoro Method just refers to doing work in short chunks of time, usually 25-minutes, followed by a short break.

The logic is that it’s easier to focus for a shorter period, especially when you know a break is coming soon.

It’s really useful in requiring you to figure out what tasks can feasibly be done in a day.

Writing things like “Work on book intro” or “Create chapter outline” in your schedule don’t work that well because they’re far too big and vaguely defined.

The way to get things done is by breaking large goals down into manageable pieces and getting through them one by one.

So what did my client do? Since her mind was clearer and more focused in the AM, she would do 3 pomodoros of writing every morning and spend one on each of her three projects.

If she still had energy left in the afternoon, she might add another pomodoro or two of writing.

But, for the most part, she devoted her afternoons to teaching-oriented tasks and other things that didn’t require as much brain power.

So, if you want to try it out, a standard way to do this is to plan out your small, feasible writing goals for the day and then decide how many pomodoros you will devote to each one.

Then set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on your first goal. Take a five-minute break. Repeat this two or three more times and then take a more extended break of 15-30 minutes.

Now onto the pros and cons.

The major pro of this method is obviously that you can move forward multiple projects at the same time. There’s a sense of momentum that is never lost because you’re working on something related to each of your projects every day.

Having this kind of daily consistency is efficient because you don’t have to waste time trying to remember where you left off.

I remember when I was writing my dissertation in a boom or bust cycle. I would read the whole week and then try to write at the end of the week.

When I would finally sit down to write, I would spend at least half an hour finding my place and getting back in touch with my ideas.

The main con is that 25 minutes is a pretty short time for book writing unless you know exactly what you’re working on that day. You must have all your materials and notes ready or else you’ll spend most of your pomodoro reading or doing research.

Also, it’s rare that you will actually finish any task within 25 minutes, so there will be days you will spend more time on one project than another.

#3: So my third suggested strategy is: Double-Purpose Everything!

This is something you can actually do in conjunction with the other two approaches.

What do I mean by this?

This is one of the most common things I advise my clients to do.

The meaning is simple: for everything you write, make sure it has more than one purpose.

One thing I’ve witnessed many scholars do is spend copious amounts of time writing things that don’t end up going anywhere.

For example, a lot of conferences require full papers for acceptance. People can spend entire weeks writing these papers and then not ever publishing them.

What a waste of time, effort, and brain power!

Therefore, when it comes to book writing, my biggest suggestion is for people to write two journal articles that will eventually be turned into book chapters.

And to answer a question that I’m sure some of you have: yes, it is totally okay—and even expected—that you will publish two of your chapters as articles before the book comes out.

So onto the pros and cons of this approach. I actually don’t have any cons, so let me just list the pros!

This is a really good approach for five main reasons.

First, because articles are shorter, tidier, and more formulaic, they can be easier to write than a more free-flowing chapter that needs to bolster the larger argument of your book.

Second, writing articles gets you back in touch with your data and keeps you up to date with the scholarly literature you will employ for your book.

Third, articles happen more quickly (at least ideally!) There are more external deadlines and therefore more accountability to get things done, particularly once you receive a revise and resubmit.

Fourth, you will receive useful feedback from reviewers on your article ideas that can also be applied to your book.

And finally, articles will add to your CV and establish your reputation as an expert in your topic area more quickly.

This is super helpful while you’re working on your book, which doesn’t have clear markers of success until you’ve received an official contract.

In addition, the idea of double-purposing everything can even be applied to teaching.

When you plan your courses or design lectures, think about the ways you can integrate ideas from your own project or readings you need to do anyway for your book.

It’s always nice to not have to reinvent the wheel anytime you do something!

Let me just repeat again that unless you are extremely intentional, during busy semesters book writing is the first thing that will fall off your plate.

One of the biggest stressors authors face is only prioritizing their short-term deadlines and then feeling like they have no time to work on their book.

It is much, much harder to get back into your book manuscript after several months have gone by.

Also, when you save all of your writing for holidays or summer, there is so much pressure for you to write that it can actually be paralyzing.

And, putting off your book can start to feel heavier and heavier over time. Remember the albatross analogy?

The goal is to work in such a way that you feel lighter and more expansive as you go, not heavier and more constricted.

So let me quickly repeat the three strategies I gave for juggling multiple writing projects:

#1: Switch off weeks between book writing and other research projects.

#2: Work on each project for a short time each day.

#3: Double-purpose all of your writing to be in service of your book project.

You can play around with these strategies to find one that works well for you. I just heard a great quote, which is “Consider everything an experiment.”

There’s honestly nothing to lose and a lot to gain if you’re willing to try something new.

And if you try one of these strategies out, let me know how it goes!

I’ll talk to you next time.