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30 Minutes a Day

Monique R. PappadisBy Monique Pappadis, MEd, PhD
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Past-Chair, ACRM Early Career Development Course Task Force
Secretary, ACRM Early Career Networking Group
Early Career Officer and Interim Communications Officer, ACRM BI-ISIG
Member, Board of Governors, Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists (ACBIS), Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA)


I don’t have time!

I will start tomorrow.

It takes me awhile to get started.

I have too many projects going on right now.

If you have said or thought any of these statements, when asked or talking about your writing, then you may need to adopt “30 minutes a day” into your daily routine. I struggle just like everyone else when it comes to trying to find time to just write – without interruptions. I have about five manuscripts and one grant application that need my attention. If you only knew about the paper that I have on my external hard drive from 20XX, then you would probably stop reading from this point forward. I am not the queen of productive writing, but I am striving every single day to increase my productivity. My turning point occurred this year when I participated in my first 14-day writing challenge provided by the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD).

Through this program, I and many other early career academics are challenged to write at least 30 minutes a day to increase productivity. Sounds easy, right? I am sure that your inner skeptic is saying, “Yeah right, that’s not enough time!” Well, I’m not here to say that only 30 minutes will make a difference. I’m sharing that by creating a habit of at least 30 minutes a day will produce changes in your productivity. When you initially start, you might be like me, staring at a blank Word document. Soon you will begin to enjoy your writing sessions and start seeing results, if you commit to 5-7 days each week.

Give your writing sessions the same priority you would give a meeting. Look at your calendar, is it filled up with meetings? I’m sure you can find a 30-minute gap. Put it on your calendar, schedule it like you do everything else. If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not going to happen. When you put it on your calendar, be specific. Don’t just put “writing.” If it works in the beginning, fine. However, you want to make specific goals. Say instead, “Intro for the community integration paper.” This will help you stay focused.

Prioritize your writing goals. This can be quite challenging. Everything seems important. However, stop and really think about the urgency of each item. If you have a grant submission for October, your grant should be number 1. If you have a manuscript that you want under review or published by a grant submission, then it should be number 2. If you are not writing a grant but have several manuscripts drafted, you may want to consider prioritizing by interest or hot topics. If it is novel, get started NOW! If you are beginning to see several publications on your topic, publish it NOW! Don’t wait!

Use a timer. I love having a timer. It taps into my competitive inner self. I love racing the clock to see how much I can get done in 30 minutes. Frequently, I’m setting the timer multiple times in a day, as I push myself to do more than 30 minutes a day. When I’m not participating in NCFDD’s writing challenge (with a built-in timer), I am using my cell phone or Google Timer. Find what works for you. There are many widgets, apps, and online programs with timers that track your progress.

Treat yourself. We don’t have to be experts on Skinner’s theory of Operant Conditioning to know that a behavior will continue if reinforced or is associated with a positive reward. Every time I complete 30 minutes a day, I treat myself to an afternoon coffee loaded with Italian sweet cream. It’s my way of saying – job well done.

Stop only writing when you feel like it. Stop making excuses. Start writing now!

P.S. If you want to get insider tips on writing successful grants and manuscripts from some of the top rehabilitation professionals at the 2018 ACRM annual conference, please register to attend the Early Career Development Course. Our course, Pearls, Possibilities, and Pitfalls: Writing Successful Grants and Manuscript Submissions, will be held on Sunday, 30 September from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Hilton Anatole.

ACRM Early Career Development Course