How a personal writing team can increase your productivity through accountability

Writing TeamAt the 2018 Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, NM, panelists at three different career stages discussed how they came together to form a “personal writing team” that supports writing goals, productivity, and accountability. Unique to this group, said panelist Felicia Moore Mensah, an associate dean and faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University, is the support that women of color can provide and need for increased mentorship for early career scholars.

The complete recording of their presentation, “A Personal Writing Team for Productivity and Accountability,” can be found in TAA’s library of Presentations on Demand.

At Teachers College, Mensah is engaged in post-tenure/post-promotion. Mensah noted that her challenges and needs include time to write; additional roles, responsibilities, and service; re-imagining and re-visiting habits for writing; deeper application of theory, research methods, and teaching practice; and developing and mentoring young scholars.

Panelist Martinque “Marti” Jones is moving from graduate student to postdoctoral writing at Teachers College, Columbia University. At this stage of her career, Jones identified challenges of professional identity development, writing routine, project prioritization and timelines, and collaborations with students and colleagues. To face these challenges, she identified needs for understanding her personal and professional goals, professional resources, strong mentorship, and social support.

Panelist Dakota King-White is preparing for re-appointment and approaching tenure at Cleveland State University. At this career stage, King faces challenges and needs for prioritizing research, teaching, and service; advocacy and boundaries pertaining to time commitments; an increase in teaching load; mentorship to navigate the process; and financial support for research.

How they are helping each other meet their needs

After meeting at TAA’s 2017 Conference in Providence, RI, the team began a four-month pilot that has offered continuous support over the entire year. Utilizing technology to check-in and to document progress, the team has found personal success and have used the same format, structure, and technological tools to extend the impact to other team writing groups with students and colleagues.

Taking advantage of Google Team Drive technology, the team described two tools they used to address their identified challenges and needs: the “Nearby Writers Group” and related resource, “The Wisdom Document”.

Nearby Writers Group

The Nearby Writers Group established the online accountability system for the team. The group set a common two-hour block of time to write, which was started and concluded by text message. A conference call to debrief occurred immediately following the writing session and the online document was used to share accomplishments and next steps after the sessions. The document also provided a location for the other team members to offer encouragement based on the recorded accomplishments and progress.

As the senior member of the group, Mensah often answered questions from the junior members during the conference calls. To maintain a record of the questions and answers, Mensah’s wisdom was recorded in The Wisdom Document.

The Wisdom Document

This document became a central location for a wealth of knowledge including:

  • Answers to questions about the writing and publishing process
  • Shared experiences, insights, and how Mensah had moved along the career span
  • Other topics, such as developing courses, teaching, advising, prioritizing, conferences, etc.
  • Professional, personal, and social topics of discussion
  • What mentorship looks like at different career stages
The overall impact of the team

Collectively in the four-month pilot program, the team logged over 203 hours of writing time resulting in the completion of a combined 22 writing projects. During the first year, they logged over 545 hours on 81 projects.

Jones noted personal benefits of having established a writing routine that facilitated prioritization and project timelines; the ability to offer professional and social support; and a broadened scope of resources.

King found the team to be a place of accountability, a safe place to process barriers to research, an opportunity to check-in with other colleagues, and a mentoring source throughout the academic year.

Mensah benefited from the team by finding time to write in small “chunks”, mentoring and supporting junior scholars, and keeping track of her writing projects in one place. As a result, she has developed Team Drives for seven other research teams and doctoral students.

Wisdom and tips from the team

As a result of this process, the team offered the following wisdom and tips for increasing your own productivity through accountability.

  • Set an appointment to write consistently
  • Let writing become habitual (develop good writing habits now)
  • Invite others to join you in writing
  • Keep track of your progress
  • Reward yourself

Who are you going to invite to join your writing accountability team?


Eric SchmiederEric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.