John Wilsey teaches history and philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of One Nation Under God: An Evangelical Critique of Christian America and blogs at johndwilsey.com. Everyone’s busy.
We all have responsibilities that demand our time and attention.
Teaching is always a time-consuming and work-intensive demand. As are the array of other duties that go along with teaching: committee work, service projects, advisee meetings, and perhaps an administrative agenda.
Then there’s writing.
Writing is an extension of our teaching. Not only is it important element of how we advance our academic careers, it is essential for us to stay sharp in the classroom and in our fields.
Writing is a non-negotiable. If you want to teach, you must write.
So how does a professor find the time to write?
Tip 1: Don’t Find Time, Make Time
You may say—I don’t have the time. I’m too busy. Not only am I maxed out at school, I have a family, a neighborhood, or a faith/civil community that is depends on me.
However, if President Obama sought our regular counsel on some issue that required a time commitment, perhaps we would ask, “how do I make the time to accomplish this task?” rather then “how do I find the time?”
When you write, and write well, you never know, President Obama may indeed sit under your counsel by reading your work.
(Don’t laugh. I wrote a post, "Threats to Our Republic: the HHS Mandate and Incivility," last spring on civility in political discourse from my perspective as a conservative. One of the points I made was that everyone, including conservatives, must show deference to President Obama, because he holds the office of President. Two days later, I had the surprise of a lifetime: I received a note of thanks from Joshua DuBois, special counselor to President Obama on faith-based initiatives.)
When did you make time for that enormous undertaking?
You likely found it in the nooks and crannies of time during the day, in larger chunks late at night, and in the early hours of the morning. When you are busy, you must find time to write in similar ways.
Tip 2: Live By Your Calendar
Set aside blocks of time on a weekly calendar for writing and stick to those times. Be disciplined about your time management.
Ask the important people in your life to help you with time management.
If you’re married and/or have children, ask your spouse and kids to help you schedule your blocks of time on the calendar at the beginning of each semester.
When each semester is over, take a small sabbatical from being hard-nosed about time management—but keep writing.
When the next semester comes around again, go back to your family and your calendar and block out times for writing for the next three or four months.
Tip 3: Prune Hobbies to Create Time and Rewards
Something might have to give.
You may have to give up certain hobbies for a time—not permanently, but for a little while.
I’m an outdoorsman and for a few months I forgo outdoor activities so I can focus on writing. I renew my time in the outdoors each time I accomplish a writing goal.
Tip 4: Surround Yourself With Productive People
Good company encourages good habits: Surround yourself with people who research and write.
Create or join a peer group of people who regularly write. These people will provide positive peer pressure for you to do the same.
Group members should be colleagues who will encourage you in your projects. You should also encourage them.
Participation in a writing community can be a powerful motivator.
If you can’t shift the question from “how do I find time?” to “how do I make time?,” you probably aren’t motivated enough to write. That sounds harsh, but it is true.
You will always find time for the activities you most desire to do.
If you don’t want to devote your energies to research and writing, then you won’t do it.
But if writing is important to you—and you see it as important to you—then you will find a way to make it a part of your day.
Tip 6: Methods that will Integrate Writing Into Your Day and Keep You Mentally Sharp
Perhaps you’ll practice your writing by keeping a journal or by keeping a blog that will hone your ability to communicate to a popular audience.
You may write book reviews to stay current in your field or sharpen your research skills by writing papers that you can present at conferences.
Maybe you’ll choose to sharpen your argumentation skills by writing editorials.
You have the time to write and you can make your schedule conform to your desire.
What do You Think?
How do you make time to write?