Write Your Nest Egg

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Gold Nest Egg What can you learn from financial professionals that will help you be a more productive academic writer?

1. Make long-term and short-term goals

Financially Speaking

If your long-term goal is to have an extra million dollars when you retire, don’t wait until the year before you retire to put money into that account.

A million may seem like a ridiculously high number to aim for, but financial planners tell us that regular, manageable amounts of money that we deposit in our retirement accounts can really add up.

How do you find that money when you have so little of it? That’s where short-term goals come in. If you are aware of your goals, you can, for example, have a small amount of your paycheck automatically deducted and put into savings. Although it doesn’t feel that good right now to have your money removed, you CAN put your retirement investment first if you keep your long-term goal in mind.

Academically Speaking

It’s nearly the same thing with writing as with finances, except that there’s no compound interest and pre-tax income (darn it!).

As an academic writer, your long-term goal is to complete a dissertation, or finish a book, or earn tenure or promotion. The number of pages or articles needed may seem entirely impossible. But if you create a feasible weekly goal, it will grow into a finished piece. Invest in your writing before your other commitments. Your goal is too important to be left to chance. Your writing needs to be put before your other, more immediate, activities.

2. Develop a workable budget

Financially Speaking

In order to squeeze every last penny out of your spending hands, a financial adviser may ask you to monitor your spending on a daily basis. After you track your habits, you’ll be able to see the spending habit that are eating up extra money without you even knowing it. As academic writers, time is your cash flow.

Academically Speaking

In the same way, track the time you spend on writing (not sitting and staring at your screen, but writing) – it is usually an eye-opening exercise. Then look at your daily schedule and find ways to fit in at least one 15 or 30-minute session. Just like money, those brief sessions do add up. And just like money, they count!

3. Invest in a “balanced portfolio” by balancing your time

Financially Speaking

Many of you know the importance of having a balanced portfolio. For example, it’s normally suggested that you should have some solid long-term investments, some riskier ones, and some short-term savings that you can withdraw if needed.

Academically Speaking

Similarly, you, as an academic, need to balance your time between reading, researching and writing. Don’t get caught in the trap of leaning only on one of these three activities. I’ve seen many people spend way too much time on the reading and researching phase, because they believe they’re not quite ready to write anything yet.

In fact, people who over-prepare for writing by reading too much are often anxious about putting their thoughts on paper. To help you with that kind of anxiety, make sure you include free writing in your arsenal. It may feel risky to “blurt” out your thoughts, but it will help you find out what you are thinking. You’ll be surprised to see that when you edit your free-written draft, entire sections of the draft are useable and even good!

4. To academics, writing = money

Stack of Coins Finally, I’d like to point out that writing literally IS money in the bank.
Examples include:

  • If you finish your dissertation, you can get on with the next part of your life. Every year you are not earning is costly.

  • If you write enough articles, books, grants, etc. you will get tenure. Not getting tenure is very costly, not to mention traumatic.

  • If you write freely and productively on a daily basis, research shows that you will be more creative. If you write freely and productively on a daily basis, research shows that you will be more creative. More and better writing leads to speaking engagements, consulting, public scholarship, or other potentially lucrative opportunities.

I’m hoping that for some of you, my little financial analogy will help make sense of the writing recommendations that we make at Academic Ladder. And maybe realizing that writing = money will motivate you to write more!

Here’s to better savings and more writing!

**Warning: Shameless Plug Alert:

Join the Academic Writing Club. It will give you the ongoing encouragement, gentle nudges, and a group of supportive colleagues to help you get clear that You are the experiment, and your behavior is the data. Joining the writing club will help you get real about your work and get on with it.

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