Our books

Become a Fan

« How many applicants are PhD programs receiving? | Main | Repeatedly publishing in the same journal? »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I'm mid-to-later career(ish), and unlike Marcus's admirable-sounding approach, I have never managed to be that predictable or disciplined in my approach to writing. I try to squeeze in as much time for it as reasonably possible, but it goes in peaks and troughs. When it's a busy period of teaching or marking, for example, I usually aim at most for the bare minimum of keeping a bit of momentum on the pipeline work/progressing things that are already in draft. (Often this isn't possible, though, and so I've definitely had to learn to not to be too harsh on myself when busy periods prevent what feels like "enough" research and writing.) I tend to need a longer period of time -- consecutive days or weeks -- to write a messy new draft of something, so I often push these outside of regular semester weeks and into the breaks. During the regular semester, I often have to work hard to clear the decks to get any new writing done, which tends to involve skating as close to line of negligence with respect to other duties as I can manage without crossing the line. That tends to be an uncomfortable place, though, so it provides useful motivation to keep on plugging so I can get back and catch up on the other work (admin especially) that had to go on the back burner to get the real/hard work of writing accomplished.

TL;DR: I have always found the writing process to be very unpredictable and other stuff has to budge to make room for it. Have never found a once-and-for-all balance, but it has tended to require constant juggling and rethinking -- at least for me. (This did not get easier with kids either alas... just had to shift priorities/expectations.)

sr now

I am senior now, but when I was on the TT, before tenure, I just worked regularly revising papers throughout the term. I would aim to present a paper at a refereed conference (APA, PSA or a somewhat selective regional conference). Then I would submit it. At that point I would start something new. I developed a strategy. Once I published on a new topic, I usually already had a well developed idea for the next paper on that topic. So resist the temptation to press all your thoughts on a topic into one paper. This is NOT salami publishing. This will just help you keep your papers focused.


I'm earlyish.

One rule I live by is always having at least one paper under review. Once a paper is sent off, I don't work on it. If I unintentionally have ideas about how to improve the paper, I make a list of the changes I'll later make. Then I work on new projects while the other papers are away.

When a paper returns, I'll wait until I reach a natural stopping in my current writing. This might mean I work on a returned paper the day it was returned because I was already at a stopping point. Or, I might wait a few weeks. Until I'm ready, I won't even read referee comments. I've learned that, if I do, I'll struggle to finish whatever I hoped to complete with the new project.

I generally don't sit on completed papers very long. This was hard to do initially when I hadn't published much, and was worried about the review process. But that extra sitting didn't get me anywhere.

Caligula's Goat

I'm a lot more like Alex and a lot less like Marcus (also mid-career and very recently tenured). It's really hard for me to give less than 100% to something I'm doing so I tend to prioritze doing my best teaching and grading when I'm teaching and grading and doing my best researching when I'm researching. I'm at a SLAC (we teach six courses a year) so investing in my teaching materials and approaches pays off professionally (teaching and research are weighted equally for tenure and promotion here).

That being said, I sometimes write off the Fall because there's so much that tends to get done in the Fall (searches, new courses, revamping committee work, etc) and there have been Fall terms where I don't get anything significant done, research-wise. My own approach has been to try and make sure that what I'm teaching is always, to the degree possible, connected to things I'm either actively doing research on or thinking about doing research on (whenever I create or update an upper division course, it's with my own research in mind). This keeps me thinking about research even when I'm teaching.

As I get closer and closer to the summer I spend more and more time on research so that when the summer begins I can really hit the ground running. I know that this runs counter to the advice of many here but it's worked well for me (I publish 1-3 articles a year and have a book out with a "top" publisher and another on the way) so I think that the *real* answer here is that early career people really need to experiment with different approaches, give themselves some permission to stumble a bit as they experiment with writing styles, and then see what works best for them.

Tenure O'Clock

I use recurring events in Outlook to end up having exactly the kind of week I want to have (i.e., spend the amount of time that seems right for reading, revising papers, etc.).

I have a recurring event alled "reading pile", so that's 2hrs per week I spend reading papers in... the reading pile. I have 2x2hrs recurring events called "Writing", and that allows me to write 750-1000 words a week. I usually have a submittable draft after 4 months. I have a recurring half-day event called "Admin (Refeereing, grant writing, committee work...), and so I know that I shouldn't schedule anything other than admin work on that afternoon. I use the events both as a way to motivate myself in doing boring stuff (like refeereing), but also as a sort of constraint (I have 3.5 hrs per week for the boring stuff, not more than that!). I have recurring events for going to the gym (when it's allowed!), because otherwise I will skip that. When I get an R&R, I "freeze" some 4hrs slots for *each* revision I have to make (even if the revision is just changing a sentence). If I finish a revision in advance, I go for ice cream.

My schedule is not insane. I work like 35 hours per week on average. I'm always on time with the deadlines. But if I lose my calendar I will literally burst into flames.


I'm tenure-track with a 2-2 load, with the expectation to publish a lot. If both of my classes are new preps, I normally spend about 17-19 hours a week on them (lecturing, grading, preparing materials, meeting with students, etc.). If neither are new preps, I normally spend about 10-12 hours a week on them. While teaching, I normally spend 12-15 hours a week on research (reading, drafting, revising, etc.). Less than 5 hours a week are on meetings and admin work.

For me, I try to set a routine for each semester. For instance, I make all the homework due on a given day, and that is the day for grading. Or I try to make sure I read every morning. Or set aside one day for just doing research, etc. I also try to have several research projects at different stages. So for one project I am reading, for another I am drafting, for a third I am polishing for submission. By having different projects at different stages, it gives me flexibility in what task I want to do in a given week


I'm not on the TT and my job has no publishing expectations, but I do publish a fair bit (several articles a year) and I'm early-career. And I teach eight courses a year and have a baby at home.

I do a little research work every work day, and try to make sure that I write a little each of those days (so: not just reading!). I give myself a manageable goal for the month, and a couple of stretch goals in case I have extra time and energy. And then at the start of each day I give myself a small, manageable research goal (e.g. write 200 words on X, read paper Y, fix the citations in Z). I try to accomplish that goal in my first bit of spare time during the day, which these days is usually about 30 mins. to an hour, depending on the baby. If I have the time and energy for more during the day, I do more. If not, I don't sweat it. At the end of the day, I report my progress to some acquaintances who do the same. At the end of the month I cross off the goals and stretch goals I met.

It adds up really quickly. And by setting manageable goals every day *and meeting them consistently*, I get a big morale boost early in the day. And because the work happens in small chunks throughout the week, losing a "workday" to teething or whatever is just not a big deal. When I'm working to a deadline, like now, I make sure to work while the baby naps (usually on me, FWIW). In the before-time, when I wasn't teaching remotely, I'd work during my commute.

In other words, I've found that working consistently is much more useful than working a lot.


I do a lot of what Erich Matthes suggests in his post here (https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2021/12/publishing-advice-for-liberal-arts-college-faculty.html).

One benefit of tying research to teaching is that it can keep you on track. If I'm using material for a class, I have some intermediate deadlines I need to meet. I wrote my first book that way (plus my students were excellent readers with great suggestions).

I also track my time to see what percentages are going where. That helps me see where I am proportionally--am I using class prep as a procrastination strategy? (There is a point of diminishing returns in hours spent.) I don't think so much in number of hours total, but how much of my week is spent on what.

Tracking also helps me be realistic about how long it takes me to do something. Sometimes I can see that it won't take that long and I'm just dreading it (or I should not think I can just "crank out" an article in a month).


I am in my three year of a TT position, with a 3/3 load in a humanities department at a public school in the US. I was very busy my first year teaching withall new preps and got very little new research work done. So I would dedicate breaks to full time research,and that helped me achieve the modest publication goals we require in half the time. In my second and third years, I began to systematically squeeze in as much research as I could a week, which ranged from 4 hours at the start to maybe 12 hours on a really good week during the semester. I found that I needed to keep up a regular short practice of writing or editing, so I could easily get back into it when I only had an hour available. I also found solace in seeing my hours spent researching steadily increasing as my time spent prepping decreased with more practice. I now average maybe 12 hours a week during the semester doing something with research, but it took a lot of time. Just make sure your teaching prep is an investment that allows for less time in the future. And get those easier publicwtions out of the way early on.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory

Open thread on hiring timelines

Cocoon Job-Market Mentoring Program