Writing Productively

Common Barriers to Writing and Some Tips for Overcoming Them

  • “I can’t find time to write.” You don’t have the problem of finding time to teach. It’s scheduled, and you do it. Instead of finding time to write, allot time to write. Make a schedule and stick to it. Be very regular.
  • “I need to do some more analyses or read more first.” These are part of writing. They count. Do them during your scheduled time. However, if you find that you are never getting words on papers because you are doing other writing related tasks, you need a new strategy.
  • “I write best when I feel like it, or when I’m inspired.” Research shows that waiting for inspiration doesn’t work.

List of Tips

1. Organize Your Time

  • Make writing a priority
  • schedule times to write, and be very regular about it. Put those on your calendar.
  • write every day for a certain amount of time.
  • write in 30 minute increments, making breaks for email, etc.
  • write in 2 hour blocks at most productive time
  • write at least a certain number of hours a week.
  • use your most productive time to write

2. Set Goals

  • Set clear goals. Once a month, assess what writing you need to get done and what your priorities are. At the beginning of each writing session, set a concrete goal. “Revise Paper” is not a concrete goal. “Reread reviewer comments and make all changes pertinent to Introduction” is a concrete goal. “Write 200 words” is a concrete goal.
  • number of words (in day, in week) goals
  • have writing partners for editing and to set goals. be accountable to these partners.

Remove Distractions

  • write first thing in the morning, before get distracted.
  • write late at night when you have a tendency to not be distracted.
  • say no to other stuff
  • turn off email, phone, do not check internet
  • No music or music without words.
  • Find the right place. If you have a tendency to start doing the dishes everytime you write at home, try not writing at home.

Monitor Progress and Accountability

  • Punish yourself for not writing. Make yourself donate to a cause that you DON’T believe in if you miss a writing session.
  • Some form of accountability (wall of shame, star chart, slacker of the week)
  • Reward yourself when you finish a project or goal. (However, do not reward yourself by taking time off writing.)


  • parking on downhill slope – finish before you are done with a thought so have some place to start next time
  • If not quite sure, write to try to figure it out
  • have to be able to delete things that don’t add to the story. If you hold onto these things, it can slow down the process.
  • get feedback from someone outside the field
  • Write first. Revise later. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.
  • Practice writing.
  • Find the right tool set to overcome hurdles. These might include different reference software, something other than Microsoft Word, apps to track progress, etc.
  • Be kind to yourself.

Many of these tips and ideas are taken from How to Write a Lot. PJ Silvia. 2007. American Psychological Association.

Additional Writing Tip Resources