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Is it better to work on only one writing project at a time - or is it better to have several different projects going on at the same time? And if you have more than one, will you ever finish any of them?

And here is a question that I was recently asked, and could be asked by a typical college faculty member (and many other professionals, too):

I am involved with writing a number of articles and grants. Do you have an opinion on whether or not it is better to stick with one until it's done completely or whether or not to work on each one a little at a time? So, within any given period (say, a time block set aside for writing) do you personally just stick to one thing a day until it's done or work on a new thing each day, etc…?

It is great to have multiple writing projects going on, for several reasons:

  1. Sometimes you are in the 'mood' to work on one of those projects, but not another.
  2. Your time frame on a given day may lend itself more to one type of writing activity - and having several to choose from gives you that option.
  3. A colleague from another department, institution, or area of the country (or world) may be close by - and you only have access to him/her for a short period of time. Because you want to work with this person, when you have several different kinds of projects, you can either choose one to present as a collaborative option, or you can offer several of them and let the colleague indicate where s/he sees the best chance for working together.
  4. It means you have lots of ideas and lots of choices, which is a very good thing!!

Now, with those four reasons to have multiple projects going, we also need to be smart about focusing sometimes on getting a project to completion. Here are a couple of suggestions to help that happen:

With grants, there's a deadline. As you begin to approach the grant submission deadline, eschew all other projects and stay totally focused on completion of the grant (with a little time to spare, by the way!)

With many articles or other writing projects, there are also deadlines, particularly when there is a themed issue and your article matches the theme. When there is a deadline, work to meet it in the same way as suggested in the item above.

When you are not working under deadline (oh, heavenly), then have as a goal to bring at least one project to completion each week or month (depending on what it is that you do and what your writing projects entail). Nothing is so motivating as feeling 'finished.' You want that momentum to carry you forward to progress on your other projects - and ultimately completing those as well.

So, should you have multiple projects going on? Yes. Can you get some of them finished rather than swirling around in 'draft-land'? Yes.

And as a college or university faculty member, you have many opportunities for success and failure. If you would like additional tips, tools, and techniques that you can use to support your successes, then access The Compendium of Productivity Tips for Professors.

 

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