The Writing Workflow: Pick a project to focus on

I am currently musing with applying a more stringent framework on my publication efforts. This ties into the debate of systems vs. goals and–if nothing else–should outsource some of the more mundane work to checklists and trackers.

Productivity can usually be increased tremendously by having one focal project. With such a laser-like focus, we do not need so much time changing tasks or projects; we might not even need a todo-list, as the project is so present in our mind.

This begs one question: what project to start with? There might be different points to look at, such as general importance of a particular paper, the estimated impact it has, the difficulty of analysis, etc. The number one decision-criteria, however, is more process focused: pick the lowest hanging fruit first. The idea behind this simple recommendation is that you get the projects that you can finish relatively quickly out of your way. Then focusing on particular projects will be even easier for you.

So how to choose which one to work on once you find time? To aid with that question, I designed a simple spreadsheet that can be used as a tracker for your research projects. The general rule here is that the farther to the right your status bar goes, the “lower the fruit is hanging”. So just screen your tracking sheet from the right to the left and handle the papers in the order they appear! In brief, this gives priority of requested revisions over editing your drafts, and of editing your drafts over drafting new text.