Are You in Publication “Debt” (i.e. Piles of Publications Owed or Overdue)?
If you answered in the affirmative to any of the above questions, then you are in publication debt. As someone who recently got out of publication debt, I know the feeling.
Like many academics, I am frequently invited to contribute to publication projects. Oftentimes the invitation comes a year or two ahead of the deadline, making me feel like I have all the time in the world to get it written. Over time I observed the vicious cycle of constantly agreeing to write new things while already working on (or behind on) previous writing commitments. This left me feeling stressed and perpetually behind.
Below I outline the strategies that I used to take control of my publication commitments.
I took inventory of all the invitations I accepted over the years and felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of accumulated publication commitments I made (on top of my own projects).
Next, I determined what I could realistically get done (keeping in mind all of my other personal and professional responsibilities). I used my Eliminate/Negotiate/Delegate strategy:
There were several publications I agreed to write and then had to withdraw from. It was VERY hard to pull out of these publications after agreeing to them. Everyone involved was very gracious and understanding. But the discomfort of the process itself was a strong reminder to be more careful and mindful before saying yes.
There were several publications I agreed to write and then had to negotiate deadline extensions. Again, everyone involved was very gracious and understanding. The extensions gave me more time to finish things up and get them off of my plate.
There were several publication invitations that I declined. But I was happy to recommended other potential authors. I am counting this as “delegating” here (though I usually use this term to describe getting help on projects or paying someone to take on certain tasks like permissions, proof reading, citations).
Having taken inventory of what I owed and then using my Eliminate/Negotiate/Delegate strategy, I was left with a more manageable list of publications to finish. In the end, it took me FAR longer than I anticipated to payoff my publication debt (even after cutting down the list substantially). Fortunately, I am still on research leave this semester (which provides the time I need to finish my book manuscript on Simone de Beauvoir).
I am no longer in publication debt. I am making great progress on the Beauvoir book. I have a self-imposed deadline for submitting the book to the press. And now, having learned from my previous mistakes (of saying yes to too much), I am declining new publication invitations until after the book is submitted to the press.