The most common concern I hear from academic writers is that they don’t have enough time to move a project forward. Over and over, I have people tell me that they have to have 2–3 hours of uninterrupted time in order to write.

This is false.

There are many tasks that you can do in 15 minutes or less that will add up to a completed project over time. Generating the content for your academic writing is only a small component of what gets articles and books out the door.

In my experience, writing is 20% new content and 80% revision and you can’t revise an empty page.

Aside from generating new content, there are a lot of other tasks that can “count” to progress your projects forward.

Here are my top 20 tasks to move your writing forward in 15 minutes or less.

In 5 minutes or less:

  • brainstorm titles
  • outline a new paragraph
  • make a list of next tasks
  • email a question to a colleague or collaborator
  • check 1–2 citations for formatting errors
  • add 1–3 citations from the manuscript to the references section
  • print/download the next article you need to read

In 10 minutes or less:

  • research possible publication outlets using Ulrich’s Database
  • read a paragraph and write notes for revisions
  • generate questions that your manuscript will/should answer
  • write 2–3 new sentences
  • make 1–2 revisions noted in a previous writing session
  • sketch an outline for a new article or chapter

In 15 minutes or less:

  • draft an abstract for an article
  • find and download 3 relevant articles from Google Scholar
  • read a page of content and write notes for revision
  • scan the references for something you have recently read and highlight citations that are pertinent to your project so that you can find and download them later
  • draft a table of contents
  • draft the cover letter that lists out the revisions you made to an article
  • submit a completed manuscript to a journal

When we use the excuse of needing uninterrupted time to keep ourselves from writing we are getting in our own way.

Move aside and let the writing happen.

To think on:

  • Do you use the excuse of needing uninterrupted time to keep yourself from moving forward with writing projects?
  • My list is certainly not exhaustive. What other 5, 10, and 15-minute tasks can you do to move your writing forward?