All of us struggle with motivation at different times, and winter can be particularly challenging. That said, it can also be a good time to hunker down and get some work done. Whether you plan to stay in academia or not, you will need written products coming out of your postdoc years to demonstrate what you have accomplished. Perhaps you are also finishing up publications from your doctoral research or laying the groundwork for a new research direction. Recently, the National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development (NCFDD)’s “Monday Motivator” featured 5 tips for productivity.
- Create a plan. How? Dr. Rockquemore writes: “It’s a simple process: 1) list your writing and wellness goals for the remainder of this calendar year, 2) map out all the steps that are needed to complete your goals, and 3) figure out when that work will get done.” While it may not be in your skill set yet, it is truly simple once you start. During your next work week, put “Planning” in your calendar for a 1-2 hour block and work through it. This is your work. This is a great time to revisit your Individualized Development Plan (IDP).
- Write every day. We also know that your own writing is the task that will consistently get put aside for other demands (e.g. lab meeting, responding to your advisor, looking up one more article, sifting through Facebook, etc.). Research shows that if you dedicate just 30 minutes a day to writing (really writing), you will make consistent progress toward a writing goal and complete a product faster than if you hope for a half-day or protected Saturday that never does emerge.
- Join a group of daily committed writers. You are not alone. We all have to write and produce. Just like a regular exercise or spiritual practice, if you are connected with others who are also committed, it helps you sustain the practice. You can meet face-to-face for your blocks of writing time or just stay connected online and check-in, which gets to the next point:
- Commit to regular accountability. Tell someone your goals and plans, and schedule a check-in meeting (virtually or in-person) to see how it is going. In the short-term, this can be yourself. Apps such as Grid Diary can help you self-assess at the end of the day what 3 things you accomplished, and set personal goals for how tomorrow can be better.
- Find dedicated mentors. All of this takes hard work, and sifting through the noise that comes at you on a daily basis. Find mentors—you should have a full team—who genuinely are invested in your success (see blog posts on mentoring). They can help hold you accountable, prioritize what needs to happen, strategize where products need to go, and troubleshoot when things fall through the cracks (which they will).
If you are interested in signing up for a weekly email with these Monday Motivator tips from NCFDD, or checking out other writing resources on their website, you can login with the UW membership.