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Graduate Writing: Staying Motivated and Productive

Staying Motivated and Productive

Sometimes getting words onto paper (or screen) can be tough. Here are some tips for staying motivated and productive during your graduate program.

  • Avoid multitasking
    • Most people cannot multitask effectively—so when taking on a cognitively challenging task (like writing), eliminate as many distractions as possible (e.g., email, phone).
  • Set time-bounded, concrete, and achievable tasks
    • Have a tangible goal in mind before sitting down to write and commit to completing it in a set amount of time (e.g., two introductory paragraphs in 60 minutes).
  • Schedule breaks
  • Embrace the messy first draft
    • Avoid deleting words (or sentences) and write without judgement in the initial drafting stages; treat the first draft as the raw material for the revisions that will produce a polished piece.
  • Get moving
    • Take a walk, stretch, or move your body to help get ideas flowing.
  • Join a writing group (whether in-person, virtual, or email-based) for accountability
  • Reward your writing
    • Decide how you will treat yourself for completing writing tasks.
  • Know yourself
  • Remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing
    • Keep your long-term goals in mind and give yourself credit for the effort you are making toward meeting those goals.
  • Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)
    • We become better and more productive writers by writing—there’s no way around it!

Looking for resources to help with focus and productivity?

Manage distractions

Pomodoro resources

White noise/background noise

Additional advice for graduate students

  • Allen, J. (2019). The productive graduate student writer: how to manage your time, process, and energy to write your research proposal, thesis, and dissertation, and get published. Stylus Publishing.
    • Ebook available via USask library
  • Brabazon, T. (2022, Nov 24). Post 36 - Publishing productivity for PhD students [Video]. YouTube.
    • Primarily of interest for students who wish to pursue an academic career