Little and Often for Academic Writing

Eva Lantsoght
2 dec ’21

“Little and often” is a concept that means that by doing a little bit of something very regularly, all the little bits add up and you get to something meaningful.

The “little and often” concept has been applied to sports, gardening, taking care of our health, and teaching math to young kids – just to name a few.

Similarly, we can use the little and often approach to academic writing. The idea is that we move our academic writing forward, whether you are focusing on articles or your thesis, by regularly writing a little bit.

There are two ways in which you can write a little bit, often:

1. Word count goals

One way to go about applying the “little and often” approach for writing, is to set word count goals. This approach can be particularly powerful when you are in the home stretch of your studies and are working on writing your thesis.

You may want to set a word count goal to achieve every (work) day, such as 750 words or 1000 words (depending on your planning), and focus on getting this writing done as your first activity of the day. It may take you just 2 hours, but then you will be able to move on and work on your other tasks for the rest of the day.

You can also use a similar approach when you want to keep moving your articles forward: get your writing done first until you hit your word count, and then move on to another task.

2. Setting aside time

If you have more demands on your time as you move through your career, you may find that hitting a word count goal on a daily basis becomes harder. You may find that your time is cut more into short chunks, and that you require more planning to move everything forward. You may at some point feel as if you are being dictated by the appointments on your calendar.

If that’s the case, then you can actively take back some of that time by planning writing sessions. Multiple, concentrated writing sessions throughout the week can work very well. Block the time off in your calendar so that you can count on this uninterrupted time.

Applying the “little and often” approach may require you to rethink some of the way in which you work. You are perhaps used to write in bursts towards a deadline. If you regularly pull an allnighter or find yourself scrambling towards the deadline for a conference paper, then putting in the time regularly to write may seem like a strange idea. But, overall, you will see that when you apply this approach, you will be able to slowly but surely achieve your writing goals, without the stress of the last-minute bustle.

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