For whatever reasons I was thinking of at the time I was motivated to twttr this:
Periodic reminder to publish. If you don't have manuscripts under first review by April... 2016 pub year is already slipping away from you.
— Drug Monkey (@drugmonkeyblog) February 2, 2016
What I mean by this is that somewhere on the pile of motivations you have to finish that manuscript off and get it submitted, you should have "keeping your calendar years populated".
It may not always be a big deal and it certainly pales in comparison to JIF factors, but all else equal you want to maintain a consistent rate of output of papers. Because eventually someone will look at that in either an approving or disapproving way, depending on how your publication record looks to them.
Like it or not, one way that people will consider your consistency over the long haul is by looking at how many papers you have published in each calendar year. Published. Meaning assigned to a print issue that is dated in a particular calendar year. You cannot go back and fill these in when you notice you have let a gap develop.
If you can avoid gaps*, do so. This means that you have to have a little bit of knowledge about the typical timeline from submission of your manuscript for the first time through until the hard publication date is determined. This will vary tremendously from journal to journal and from case to case because you don't know specifically how many times you are going to have to revise and resubmit.
But you should develop some rough notion of the timeline for your typical journals. Some have long pre-print queues. Some have short ones. Some move rapidly from acceptance to print issue. Some take 18 mo or more. Some journals have priority systems for their pre-print queue and some just go in strict chronological order.
And in this context, you need to realize something very simple and clear. Published is published.
— Chris Cole (@drchriscole) February 2, 2016
Yes, mmhmm, very nice. Pre-print archives are going to save us all. Well, this nonsense does nothing for the retrospective review of your CV for publication consistency. At present the culture of scientific career evaluation in the biomedical disciplines does not pay attention to pre-print archives. It doesn't really even respect the date of first appearance online in a pre-publication journal queue. If your work goes up in 2016 but never makes it to a print article until 2017, history will cite it as 2017.
*Obviously it happens sometimes. We can't always dictate the pace of everything in terms of results, funding, trainee life-cycles, personal circumstances and whatnot. I'm just saying you should try to keep as consistent as possible. Keep the gaps as short as possible and try to look like you are compensating. An unusually high number of pubs following a gap year goes a long way, for example.