July Writing Roundup
This Month in Review
Happy end of July, dear readers! My Substack monthly stats show that you have been reading PNP a little less than usual this month, which I hope means you have been taking a break from aca life and doing something that feeds your soul! But as we turn the corner into August, I anticipate a rise in pageviews once more. PNP is always here when you need it. Simply search the archives for previous posts that you may have missed.
As for me, I took some time off this month to vacation in Colorado away from the oppressive Texas heat, and I took a few weeks off from PNP posts with the help of a couple fantastic guest writers. Thank you so much, Drs. Henry and Peplin, for sharing your wonderful insights! Please see below for links to their posts. Got something to share with PNP readers? Please consider pitching a guest post!
Here are some of my favorite media I’ve consumed over the past month on writing, productivity, and managing all-the-things. Some of this content is new, some of it is old, but all of it has kernels of wisdom for busy academic writers.
1. Here are the Publish Not Perish posts from the past month, in case you missed any:
How Chronic Illness Revolutionized My Definition of Success (A Guest Post)
Shutdown Routines (A Guest Post)
2. Many new academic writers, especially graduate students, often mistakenly believe that their first drafts should consist of perfectly crafted sentences seamlessly flowing from one idea to the next. However, it's important to recognize the dangers of this misconception. I’ve argued before that flow writing and the shitty first draft are crucial steps for allowing ideas to flow freely in the initial stages., who writes Page by Page, recently wrote a great post that gives us a look under the hood of the drafting process, particularly the messy and challenging bits. She gives a thorough understanding of what to expect and how to approach each stage by dissecting the major turning points in her own process. What makes her example stand out is how effectively it illustrates the unpredictability of the writing process during the drafting stage, an aspect of the writing process that many beginning authors gloss over.
3. You get enough sleep, but do you get enough rest? I really like this visual Twitter thread explaining why you might need different kinds of rest depending on your current state of mind and body, including things like sensory, spiritual, and social rest.
Some of these ideas relate to a post I did on the power of deep play, a type of play that usually sparks creative and mental rest. I write,
When we are overworked or burned out, the wisdom we are given is that we need to rest, which often conjures an image of ourselves lying still on a beach somewhere or simply sleeping. We might imagine ourselves in a spa, reclining with cucumbers on our eyes and someone massaging our feet. While relaxing at the beach or spa and sleeping are important, not all of the solutions to feeling overworked and stressed require stillness or REM activity. Instead, we sometimes require complete immersion in an activity other than work.
4. I appreciated Gloria Mark's Chronicle article on the negative effects of multitasking in faculty life and ways to mitigate its impact. She emphasizes that multitasking causes fragmented work, increases the likelihood of errors, causes stress, and reduces productivity. Does this sound familiar?
Multitasking is like shifting gears in the mind. Work becomes fragmented when you are switching from one task to another. You end up stringing fragments together to restore a common thread in one task. It is extra effort above what is needed to actually perform the task.
Many people believe that by multitasking you can accomplish more. But doing things in parallel is impossible if the activities require some amount of mental effort. You can’t pay attention in a Zoom meeting and answer students’ questions in a discussion forum at the same time. You may think you can, but when you try to do both simultaneously, what you’re actually doing is switching your attention, often rapidly.
I really appreciate that Mark includes both individual and structural strategies to overcome some of the effects of multitasking, including using time blocks for similar tasks and “revising promotion policies to de-emphasize quantity,”— imagine that?!!
5. Many of us are gearing up for fall courses, and with a little extra planning, we can set ourselves up for a successful teaching term that allows time for other goals. In her helpful article, How to Streamline Your Teaching Workload For Next Semester,shares the ways in which she manages to cut back on her workload without sacrificing quality of instruction.
She advises teachers to take stock of everything that goes into their jobs, evaluate how much they can change things, and then devise plans to streamline their workload so that they can devote more time to the activities that will have the greatest positive impact on their students. The goal is to reduce stress and increase satisfaction in the classroom so that teachers have more time for other pursuits and their own well-being.
I also wrote about some pedagogical strategies that save time in this post:
6. Want to try out a really simple time management strategy? Try the 3-3-3 method for managing your time. The strategy entails allocating three hours to the most pressing task at hand, completing three urgent but lesser-prioritized tasks, and three routine maintenance tasks. The method suggests setting a goal of accomplishing less on a daily basis to free up time and energy for unanticipated events and long-term investments.