Most people rarely ask whether the writing goals they have are the right ones…I am one of these. They assume that if they want something that they should just go after it. I agree …to a certain extent.
But just going after one writing goal without assessing whether it is the correct one for you now could leave you taking action without making progress. Think of a toy top spinning on a table. Yes, it is moving in circles but it moves only a small distance across the table. You will not use a spinning top to move from one end of a table to the other end.
Earlier this year I had to give preference to one goal, completing the Certificate in University Teaching and Learning, over another, my academic writing and publications goal. Now that I’m done with the certificate programme, I have been twiddling my thumbs in the past two months on getting back on track with my academic writing and publications goal. My habit goal now is to write for 15 minutes every day. But I don’t feel good with the 15 minutes of writing because I feel as though I’m not making real progress.
However, I’m now considering that this habit goal is not the right one for me. In fact, it may be only one of three possible habits that I need to practice daily.
The key is to consider the outcomes. Then determine the habit goals you will need to develop to move you to the outcomes that you want.
Outcomes are your big writing goals
The outcomes are the “big” writing goals that you want.
University professors have to publish…otherwise, they could be ‘fired’ (contract not renewed) or not promoted once tenured. In universities with a huge research component, publication numbers, quality and rates are the key metrics. What matters most is getting more publications. Some aim to publish at least four research articles per year.
New habit goals that lead to the outcome you want
You can accomplish each outcome by taking one or more types of actions. The next step is to develop habits for each type of action.
What really matters for university professors is how often they are submitting manuscripts for publications.
While a daily writing practice helps you with producing a manuscript or applying for grants for new research projects, an academic author has to push manuscripts in hand through the publication process.
Now, if you’re a new academic writer you will focus on producing paragraphs and sections of texts, figures, tables, and eventually a manuscript. Your goal is a production goal.
However, if you already have several manuscripts or work in groups that produce manuscripts then the goal becomes a publication goal. When you are strapped for time the publication goal is put on the front burner and the production goal on the back burner. Or, both are run side by side. In some groups, production is assigned to a few members, publication to others, and promotion to maybe 1 or 2 persons.
I work on some research myself and I am in several research groups. I need a production goal for my personal research because that is the stage of the work and a publication goal with others.
If I’m learning something new then I will have a learning goal as well. My learning goals also tend to involve writing because this is how I assimilate the work.
I’m revising my one writing goal into 3 goals: 1 production habit goal, 1 publication habit goal, and 1 learning habit goal.
Your turn now
If you want to determine if your writing goals are the correct ones, assess them in terms of outcomes and the metrics for measuring those outcomes. Then, set goals that will help you to push those metrics. Set multiple goals if needed.