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Developing a Work Plan

In the month of January I am developing a series of blog posts aimed to help you work through the process of peer review. For more background on the series, click here. In my previous post I talked about how to translate reader comments into actionable revision tasks. See here.

So, now that you have a long list of tasks, you need to figure out how long it is going to take you to revise. And in order to do that, you need a work plan. Want to know why?

Without a clear work plan in place you will likely feel exhausted and overwhelmed ALL of the time –regardless of how much progress you are making on your revision.


Many of us have NO CLUE how long it takes us to do anything when it comes to writing. The end result is usually a missed (unrealistic) deadline, after which you may hide from your editor and suffer a major hit to your self-confidence. Sound familiar?

The problem here is that most academics were NEVER trained in managing projects. Sure, you may have written a dissertation. But chances are you did so while only working on your dissertation. You also may not have set many milestones aside from "Draft Chapter 1" or reflected on your writing process along the way.

And now you find yourself teaching, meeting with committees, and somehow trying to work on your research/writing. It's not surprising that many academics default to writing only in the summer break or on sabbatical, since this creates very similar conditions to the aforementioned dissertation writing.

But when an editor is waiting on a revision, you can't really say "Um, I will get this back to you after my sabbatical in eighteen months."

A solid work plan will help you avoid the panicked binge writing that typically precedes a big writing project that you did not plan properly. AND you won't have to keep avoiding your editor. It's a win-win!

So, to accurately estimate the time your revisions will take (the *KEY* to an effective work plan) it's important to do the following:

  1. Categorize your revision tasks by type. Do you need to read a couple of books? Or restructure your introduction? Make a note of each type of task. This will help in creating your time estimate, but can also be useful in deciding what to work on each week. Are you a bit tired, or only have one hour for writing? Take on a sentence-level revision task rather than a big organizational one.

  2. Be realistic about the time you have to write each week. Maybe it's only 5 or even 10 hours during the teaching semester. And that's okay! Remember that if you write only 6 hours a week during the semester, you will accumulate 90 hours of writing time before May. Slow and steady wins the race, indeed!

  3. Track your workflow. Remember when I asked you to categorize your revisions by type? Spend a week or so completing one of each type of task you have identified, and track the time it took you to finish. This way, if you realize it takes you two hours to read an article and your reader report recommended five you know that you will need at least 10 hours for that. [Academics are infamous for underestimating the time it will take to complete something. So, if in doubt always overestimate.]

When I am writing my work plan I consider how much time I have to dedicate to my revision AND how long it will take to complete my revision tasks. Then, I map it out over the course of 10 weeks or 15 weeks. However long it will take.

Wouldn't it feel great to know exactly what you needed to do to complete your revision and how long it will take?


Missed the first posts in this series? You can find Week 1 here and Week 2 here.

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