A Scientific Writing Tracker to reach your goals

Like many scientists, you might frequently underestimate the time it takes to write a paper. This is a common error, which often causes chaos in the writing process and leads to disappointment and decreased motivation.

Today, Mina and I, Gaya, present a game-changer for reaching your writing goals: the Scientific Writing Tracker. This tool will revolutionize your writing process by enabling you to accurately assess how much time you need for each part of your paper. Not only will it help you to stay on track, but it will also motivate you to get started and enable you to set realistic writing goals.

In this post, you’ll learn how this tool works and how to use it to improve your writing process. As a bonus, we’ve included a detailed video tutorial and a link to the free download.

A Painful Lesson from the Past (or why every scientist needs a writing tracker)

In September 2007, with just two days left before submitting my Ph.D. thesis, I (Gaya) entered a frantic race against time. My to-do list was overwhelming; I had less than 48 hours to:

  • Insert the figures into the 386 pages of my Ph.D. thesis
  • Create the reference list
  • Unify the layout of the eight chapters
  • Format the text according to APA standards
  • Write the title page, the acknowledgments, and the abstract
  • Create the appendices
  • Insert page numbers
  • Craft a table of contents
  • Thoroughly proofread the aforementioned 386 pages for any errors or typos

These tasks, which until then I had considered minor details, turned into a monstrous 35-hour marathon to finish my thesis on time (you can read the whole story here). This horrendous (and, in a certain way, interesting) experience should have taught me to set more realistic writing goals. But truth be told, it didn’t. Throughout my postdoc, I repeatedly fell into the trap of underestimating the time required for writing papers and grant proposals. Again and again, I ended up having to pull all-nighters or break promises made to my co-authors about deadlines.

Why is underestimation more common than you think?

Underestimating how much time we need to write our papers or theses is a widespread issue among scientists. Psychologists call this phenomenon the planning fallacy. The planning fallacy is a cognitive bias where people underestimate future task durations despite evidence that similar tasks have consistently taken longer in the past (here you can see a video of Daniel Kahneman talking about the planning fallacy).

This optimistic prediction often leads to mismanaged schedules, missed deadlines, and increased stress because tasks invariably take longer than expected. The best way to mitigate the planning fallacy consists in setting goals based on past task durations. But how do you know how long a mammoth project, like writing a scientific article, will take?

The Scientific Writing Tracker: Your Secret Weapon

Today, we’re delighted to introduce the tool I wish I had during the frantic final run of my Ph.D. thesis: our Scientific Writing Tracker.

The tracker is an Excel file that lets you record the details of your writing sessions. It includes a sheet for each month and an annual overview. It calculates the time spent, the words written, and the discrepancies between your word targets and actual production. The tracking chart is a reality check, providing tangible data on the often underestimated time and effort required to write an article.

A Peek Inside the Tracker

The tracker lets you log the following:

  • The project you’re working on
  • The section you’re focused on (e.g., abstract, introduction, material and methods…)
  • The writing process phase (e.g., drafting, revising…)
  • The method you’re employing (Pomodoro, Focusmate…)
  • Your writing location
  • The time spent writing
  • Your word count goal and actual output
  • Your focus and satisfaction levels after each session
  • And more…

What can the Scientific Writing Tracker do for your writing?

The Scientific Writing Tracker can help you:

  1. Manage your time and plan new writing projects: Tracking your writing time will give you a clear idea of how long it takes to complete the different sections of your paper, allowing for realistic goal-setting and efficient time management.
  2. Measure your productivity and identify the factors that contribute to it: You can use the tracker to identify the conditions (location, methods…) that improve your writing.
  3. Motivate yourself: Quantifying your progress is highly rewarding and will motivate you to keep writing. In addition, writing down the start of a writing session can give you a jump-start of motivation to get started.
  4. Evaluate your focus and satisfaction: Rating your focus and satisfaction during each session will help you identify conditions that enhance or hinder them. It will also make you more aware of the processes going on during your writing sessions.

The Scientific Writing Tracker is a self-awareness tool that brings structure to a chaotic process and enhances writing efficiency.

Video Tutorial: Mastering the Scientific Writing Tracker

Our step-by-step video tutorial is your guide to using the tracker. It covers everything from initial data entry to understanding calculations and interpreting results.


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Wrapping Up: Say Goodbye to Underestimation

Underestimating task durations, especially in scientific writing, often leads to stress, disappointment, and dwindling motivation. The Scientific Writing Tracker is here to turn the tide.

By accurately measuring the time required for each writing session, the tracker equips you with invaluable insights and empowers you to set realistic goals. Moreover, seeing your progress quantified will encourage you to keep writing and improving.

So, don’t wait for another writing all-nighter. Download our free Scientific Writing Tracker right away.

And please share your feedback with us! We plan on creating a new tracker every year and we would love to tailor it to your needs. Write your ideas for improvement to me, Gaya, at kedia@abrilliantmind.blog.

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