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Generally speaking, I'm with Marcus: work on stuff simultaneously. I do a little bit every day (just an hour or two), and what I work on depends on what else is in the queue and what the deadlines are. Anything with an imminent deadline (i.e. 1-2 months from now) gets priority.

If I have a long working day, I will start with the imminent stuff then move on to less urgent stuff when my energy or interest starts to flag. Because my time is constrained these days--and because I don't like to write more than a couple hours a day anyway--I usually end up working on just one project a day. But I will alternate throughout the week as time and energy allow. If I'm making a big push on something then I will do all my writing on that one project for a while, but gear down later in the day with reading for other projects.

Usually, this means that revisions (i.e. R&Rs) get priority, and new work takes a backseat until I've cleared my plate. Currently, it means I work on my book a few days a week, and alternate between an R&R and a chapter with the same deadline on the others.

If you feel stuck or bored with one project, work on another for a little while instead. Putting all your energy into one thing that's not feeling very rewarding at present is a recipe for unhappiness.

For someone still trying to get their first pub under their belt, however, I'd recommend focusing their energy on revising that first paper. It's hard to get the swing of things early on, and I think you're liable to dilute your attention a little too much. If you're revising, you're close to submitting it, and you'll have months to work on other stuff while you wait for a verdict.

But do keep a running list of paper ideas, and don't hesitate to write a little if you have a thought about one of them.


I agree with the general point that to be publish effectively (one paper a year or more), you should be working on multiple papers at the same time.

I have never had any difficulty working on multiple projects, so it is hard to give advice. But I'd recommend two things to someone, like perhaps OP, who is starting out. First, have different projects at different stages. For instance, one paper at the 'getting feedback' stage; one paper at the drafting stage; one paper at the reading stage. That way, the work for each project feels different.

Second, experiment with forced time windows. For instance, work on one project Monday/Weds/Friday and the other on Tuesday/Thurs. Or one only in the morning, the other only at night. Sometimes people have a hard time switching between projects because they have a hard time 'getting into the mind set' of a project. By experimenting with forced time windows you can determine how long you need to get back into a project to effectively work. (Is it an hour? A day? A week? etc.)

Anonymous Grad

Another plug for at least having a secondary project at all times: sometimes you will get stuck on your main project (for many reasons: genuine philosophical difficulty, lack of motivation, can't find those notes you wrote a week ago), and it is useful to have something else that is relatively easy to work on as a kind of fall back. That way you can always make some progress every day you work, which I find incredibly important to keeping up general motivation to work.


One important point: given that you already have comments from one person, you really should revise that paper. I think it would be quite inappropriate for you to ask that person for comments on another paper until you have placed this one, or at least sent it out to a journal (unless they have some special obligation to read your work, for example, they are on your committee).


I used to think that alternating projects frequently was the best way for me to stay interested/motivated. Following some advice, I've recently been trying to focus for at least 3 weeks in a row on a single writing project (taking a small break between projects). I've been able to make more progress this way and I've also felt less overwhelmed. Also, when one of my papers seems more promising than the others (and/or is closer to being ready for submission), I try to prioritize it––only shifting to other projects occasionally when I need a break or when I'm waiting for feedback.

I personally don't often have enough energy to revise/edit a paper in the afternoon after having spent several hours in the morning on another paper, but everyone is different.

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