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Academic Coaching & Writing

VIII. An Academic, Writing: Planning and Time Management

Jan 22, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

This week I had my first meeting with my Coach. I have to admit that I wasn't sure what to expect. I've never had a mentor or coach work with me closely about my writing. I am independent and have been successful in the past because I work well enough on my own.

Emphasis on well enough.

Planning and Time Management

Since I have a clear deadline (or rather a looming deadline), I know that I am going to have to work hard to finish my book on time. I also know that one of my biggest weaknesses is my lack of organization and planning. Typically, I wait until the last minute and then write until I collapse. Then I write some more until I finish.

My coach immediately got to the heart of the matter. What is the outline of the book? When would you like to have it done? How do you backdate the schedule so that you have enough time to edit and get some peer feedback before you submit the manuscript? What are you going to do today? tomorrow? How long will that take? Write it down.

I didn't know how to answer many of the questions Moira, my coach, asked me. How long would I need to brainstorm? One of the reasons I struggle so much with time management is because I underestimate how much time tasks are going to take, and as a result, I feel under pressure and tend to panic. I know that these aren't ideal circumstances under which to write and produce my best work, but it's the only reality I've experienced. As an experiment, I'm committing to take twice as much time as I think I need.

Will it be the right amount of time?

I don’t know yet. This was the first week of my 12-week writing program, and the writing (which includes pre-writing, brainstorming, and organization activities) did not go as planned. I am teaching a new course this semester and had to spend some of the time I had set aside for writing to learn a new textbook and online learning system. Once again, I found myself in the familiar situation of not having enough time. I observed myself panic and then rush through my planned tasks. However, this time I thought to myself how much better my work could be if I took the right amount of time to get the tasks done more thoughtfully and thoroughly.

Already, after only one meeting, I can see the difference working with a coach is making in the way I think about writing, especially my planning and time-management skills. I thought I was a pretty good writer. Now I see that I could be so much better.

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