Hands down – writing is the most important skill you will use as a student.
The simple fact is finishing a degree requires a substantial amount of writing.
But how can you form a regular writing habit?
Try these highly effective strategies to help create the habit of regular writing.
1.Identify a trigger. A trigger is something you do as a habit now without even thinking, like brushing your teeth. The goal here is to pick a strongly formed habit (your trigger) and form a link with your new habit (writing). For example, I use finishing my breakfast as a trigger, so once I’m done I immediately begin my writing. I don’t think about breakfast, it’s not on my to-do list, it’s an ingrained habit. Thats why I linked it with writing, because I want my new habit to become ingrained.
2. Don’t write for too long. Try starting with 5-10 minutes of focused writing at the most for the first 1-2 weeks. I know this seems counter intuitive, but to form long lasting habits you must make it as easy as possible. If a task is hard or requires lots of attention you can easily make excuses for not doing it. Once you have formed the habit you can gradually increase your writing time. Do not underestimate the power of starting small and progressing slowly. Just think, if you only increase your writing time by 10 minutes a month you could be writing for 1 hour everyday in 6 months time!
3. Log it. Try and keep a note of when you did your new writing habit. Keep it simple and log it immediately after the activity. Put a mark on your calendar or start a simple spreadsheet which you can use to log you writing. Don’t put this off, it will help make the habit more deeply ingrained.
4. Report it. Try telling people about your new writing habit, and report to them regularly. Post it on Facebook, blog about it or join an online forum. If others are expecting your report, you will be more likely to stick to your writing habit. Social accountability can be a strong motivator and the more pressure you put on yourself, the better.
Remember, the focus is on creating a lasting habit of writing, not the end product. Just create new words on the page everyday and keep track of it. Do this for at least a month to help make writing part of your daily routine. If your writing habit becomes firmly ingrained, and strongly attached to its trigger, you won’t need to put it on your to-do list. You will just do it once the trigger goes off. And that’s the payoff: a good habit, without any of the thinking.
Many students (and academics I might add) tend to binge write. Binge writing is doing huge amounts of writing at irregular intervals, with large periods of very little writing in between. Writing binges can achieve a lot, but binges are not sustainable. On the other hand if you create a healthy habit of writing regularly in small chunks, you can improve the quality and quantity of your work.
Love it or hate it, you have to write a lot while studying. Make it a habit and you will make your life at university a whole lot easier.