Writing anytime, anywhere and on any device

The title of this post may sound like an advertisement for a new tech gadget, but it has been my life motto for the past four months. My writing habits for my PhD have changed this year, so I have been doing snack writing anytime, anywhere and on any device. However, I do not know whether this habit of academic writing routine will last for good or whether it is a temporary situation because of the pressure of the ticking clock. Writing my PhD has been my number one priority, and most of my activities fall into Quadrant I in Covey’s Time Management Matrix which was illustrated below. If I continue the habit of snack writing, I will hopefully allocate more time to Quadrant II activities that I would like to do more, but they are currently underrepresented in my agenda. Quadrant III and IV activities are the distractions that cause a feeling of guilt during the third year of my PhD.

Covey's Time Management Matrix

For the last four months, I have written in my office, bedroom, at various cafés, on a train, on an airplane, and I have taken notes in a park. My new writing places have enabled me to focus on my writing in a more effective way, and being at a café, where other people work on their laptops, has motivated me to write more. In comparison to the first two years, I have socialised much less, and writing at a café has become a kind of social activity for me. When I do not have my laptop with me, I am writing on my iPad, and I transfer my writing notes to my laptop. This provides a springboard for more structured writing later on in my office or bedroom. In this way, I have found starting to write much easier than before. Previously, I had spent some preparation time (a.k.a. procrastination) to start writing. In reality, we never feel quite ready for writing, according to Hugh Kearns who delivered a seminar called ‘Turbocharge Your Writing’ in the beginning of the new year at The University of Manchester. His first academic writing tip was to write before you feel ready. I have been trying to put this into practice in my third year.

Café at the Whitworth Art Gallery is one of my faourite places to write.

Café at the Whitworth Art Gallery is one of my favourite places to write.

The third year of my PhD, which has been challenging due to the uncertainty of the future lurking in the background, has more ups and downs than the first two years. Additionally, my mentality that “there is always room for improvement” makes it hard for me to feel that my chapters are done and dusted. Nonetheless, I feel that there is a light at the end of the tunnel after I have successfully completed writing, and I hope that I will slowly get there, and then I will be able to focus more on Quadrant II activities.


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