Archive for the ‘writing’ Category
Posted in children, demands, dissertation coach, distractions, family, planning, productivity, resources, self-sabotage, strategies, writing, writing schedule, tagged dissertation, dissertation coach, distraction-free writing space, summer camp for writing, summer writing, writers' retreat, writing on May 30, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Posted in academic, anxiety, demands, dissertation boot camp, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, distractions, family, goals, planning, re-group, realistic goals, relationships, teaching, time management, writing, writing schedule, tagged calendar, daily goals during holiday, dissertation, end of semester overwhelm, family conflict, holiday stress, insensitive relative, perfect person, plan, schedule on December 17, 2011 | 3 Comments »
Did you think you had much of your shopping done for the holidays, but now you can’t find key presents? Are you wondering where that stocking- stuffer stuff is? In the multiple piles of boxes that you have around your bedroom and basement? Did you really buy them…or maybe not?
Did you schedule your holiday gathering for your extended family during the busiest week of December? How can you walk around the usual family dynamics at these gatherings and not get testy?
And now there are last-minute meetings or final conferences at school? And, of course, you haven’t finished your grades.
What will help this week go a little better?
1) Make sure you have all commitments (meetings, conferences, deadlines) written down in your calendar—and make sure your calendar is accessible. Too often the big things don’t go into your calendar because you know you won’t forget those, but then as you look back over your week you don’t see that you spent two hours in a meeting and three hours in conferences, and you wonder what the heck did I do with all of my time?
2) What is your 24-hour goal? Write your 24-hour goal at the top of the schedule for each day. Twenty-four hour goals are the small but important goals that you set for yourself to take action on during a 24-hour period of time. These are the non-scheduled tasks and goals that you are committed to do. One 24-hour goal may be that you will work with edits for an article or you will edit a paragraph of the dissertation chapter. Look at your calendar for the bits of open time and claim those bits of time for your 24-hour goal.
3) Don’t burden yourself with thoughts of the impossible. Block visions of the must-do lists of all that you have to do over the next three months. It sounds silly, but too often you allow yourself to think that you have to do all these things now. Then you open yourself to feeling that you are ineffective and slacking off when you’re really doing so much.
4) Don’t compare your house and relationships and work to others. Do you have the idea that there’s this perfect person who has the clean, uncluttered house, and of course it’s beautifully decorated for the holiday? The perfect person also has a spouse/partner who jumps in and cleans. The perfect one didn’t put off grading and so she isn’t sweating because now her grades are due and she is behind.
When you are overwhelmed, do you think, “Oh, so and so has it all together. Why can’t I?” At those moments, you need that inner best friend to sneer at you and say, “Really? Really?” If you need help in dispelling the image of the perfect person, then imagine her at her worst moment. Image her screaming at her child. Not so perfect, right?
5) Avoid conflicts that come up too often at family gatherings. Avoiding those conflicts takes time and planning. If you’re the only one who brought wrapping paper and you’re in the back room wrapping gifts, how will you react when someone asks you if you’ve had a busy week? And someone will ask you that. And you know someone will ask how you’re doing on your dissertation. Plan ahead. Are you the only academic? Or the only person struggling with a dissertation? Have a Chinese wall between you and the folks who think that what you do is odd. Of course, you could wear a shirt that says, “Don’t ask me about my dissertation.” But if you don’t want to be quite so obvious, then have an if/then plan in place: If she says “x“, then I will do “y.” And what is “y”? Bite your tongue, smile, walk out of the room. And keep wrapping those presents. Yes, you did have a busy week.
And at the end of the week, acknowledge yourself for keeping your 24-hour goals, for imagining the mythical perfect person at her worst moment, and for smiling and simultaneously biting your tongue.
Put your feet up and be grateful that the marathon week is over.
Relax and enjoy your holiday.
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com
Posted in academic, accountability, boundaries, children, determination, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, distractions, family, productivity, self-sabotage, writing, tagged assuming control, dissertation writing, juggling writing and children, producing text, productivity, setting boundaries on August 5, 2011 | 1 Comment »
In a recent blog, I sang the praises of writing whenever you are taking a plane somewhere. The quiet, distraction-free atmosphere makes flying perfect for writing, or so it seems to me.
I heard from a dissenting reader.
She said, “I’d love to be able to devote myself to writing while on a plane, but unfortunately I travel with a little sidekick who demands a lot of attention.”
Unfortunately, when you have kids, travel (and most everything else) is all about the kids.
And summer vacation presents such a situation. For many people, having the kids on vacation from school is a great time for the family to be together and to do fun things. But if you have to make headway on your writing, summer vacation presents specific challenges.
If you have to keep on track with a writing project, particularly meeting deadlines for your dissertation, it’s time to look for places where you have control. You must make time to write, and to make that time, you will have to draw boundaries.
1.You can’t always be on-call.
If you tell your kids that if they need you, to just call, they will call you, even if they don’t need you. Funny story: one child of a client yelled for her mom because the dog chewed up a Kleenex—that was the emergency.
2.Have a door between you and your kids.
One client says that she sits in the main room of her house and wears earplugs to quiet the din while she reads. But the consensus among my clients is that boundaries should be visible, but you should not be.
3.Invest in help.
If you’re always slightly uneasy, not knowing what your children are doing on the other side of the door, hire someone—young or old—to sit with the kids, watch them, play a game with them, prepare a snack for them. Two solid hours of help could equal a good chunk of concentrated writing for you.
4.Get the heck out of the house.
The answer to how can you write at home is … more than likely you can’t, at least not all of the time. An hour or two each afternoon, or two hours 3 afternoons a week, you need to go, leave, vamoose. You will very likely have to go to the library on a routine basis, and you will have to hire a sitter or take your kids to someone else’s house. Make a plan!
Many writers use daycare for their kids during the school vacations, and as far as I know, the writers haven’t been struck dead for doing that, nor have they noticed that their children’s growth has been stunted. When my kids were in school, I enrolled them in a Summer Fun project at their local school. It wasn’t a full school day—just a few hours each day– but even so, my kids complained that they didn’t want to spend time at school. It was their vacation.
As I recall, I may have pulled back a bit on the amount of time they spent there, but I didn’t cave completely. I felt guilty—that goes with the territory—but I had to have time to write.
If you don’t honor your need to write and the need to make it possible for you to write, who will? I hope your partner or spouse supports your need to mark boundaries or to use daycare or to hire a sitter, but it’s up to you to say what you need and to make the changes necessary for you to write.
I’d love to hear not only what your challenges are around finding time to write, but also what you have put in place that has been of help to you.
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com
Posted in boundaries, children, choice, commitment, determination, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, distractions, family, perseverance, planning, reasons for not writing, strategies, time management, writing, writing schedule, tagged assuming control, dissertation writing, juggling writing and children, Maine, making space for writing, producing text, productivity, setting boundaries, summer writing, work identity on July 22, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Are your children home on vacation from school? And you’re trying to keep an eye on your children, as well as make headway on your writing project?
How’s that working for you?
During the school year, most academics teach and try to write. Both teaching and writing are critical for an academic’s success and are important parts of the academic’s identity. The plan is that once summer comes, the writing takes priority.
But no matter how carefully and hopefully they have planned, more than one of my dissertation and writing clients say said that once summer comes, they lose their work identity.
It’s difficult to deal with the reality of summer. You go into summer with those unspoken hopes and expectations that you’ll make significant progress toward your writing goals. Then before long you realize that it isn’t going to be the way you think it’s supposed to be.
You had thought that with no papers to grade or classes to prepare for that you’d have long, quiet afternoons, or at least a couple of hours a day with no interruptions, when you could read and, more importantly, write.
And the writing is not happening.
It’s emotionally stressful, enough so that you may find yourself waking in the night and having trouble turning off your mind and getting back to sleep.
And even though you want to be writing, you get such comments from other parents as, “Oh, you’re not working this summer?” Grrr…if only I could work, you think.
You need to write, and not only during those 15 minutes when you can hide in the bathroom or duck downstairs to the basement.
For years, I juggled teaching during the school year with being at home during the summer.
My fantasy was to have a summer cottage in Maine where I could go to write in the summer.
I was never going to have a real cottage for writing, but I needed to make a space for writing—a cottage, if you will—inside my house.
My kids were old enough to be on their own in the house for an hour or two, and so I put a sign on my office door that read “Mom is in Maine.”
My kids thought it was great, or at least some of the time they thought it was o.k. And my “Mom is in Maine” sign wasn’t as forbidding as the “Keep Out” sign that they occasionally used on their bedroom doors.
For the most part, my sign worked. I had to keep an ear open for any sort of hubbub, or alternately, when it was too quiet. But I made sure that my kids knew that this was not a one-time event, and that I expected everybody to work with me on this.
At least my daughter gave me her stamp of approval, including drawing pictures of light houses for me.
It wasn’t a solution, but it helped.
A client told me that she, too, had to be creative in order to write at home. The door to her home office is framed in clear glass. Her preschool-aged children would routinely outrun the family au pair and bolt for the office door, where they would peer through the glass in an attempt to see their mother. To block their view, their mother put black curtains over the glass. Kids are smart, and so they weren’t completely deceived. Occasionally, she would still hear their little voices, outside her door, saying, “I think she’s in there.”
All of these attempts to find a space and time to write remind me of a client’s great a-ha moment: “I found I could not write my dissertation at the dining room table.”
Have you decided that you can’t write your dissertation at the dining room table? Where do you go? How do you juggle writing and taking care of your kids?
I’d love to hear from you.
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com
Posted in academic, boot camp, dissertation boot camp, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, focus, productivity, self-care, writing, writing breaks, tagged BBC World News, dissertation, focus, nap, National Sleep Foundation, productivity, self-care, self-discipline, sleep, writing on June 26, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Getting more sleep is high on the Wish List, if not the To-Do list, of most dissertation writers.
And so it is with me.
I always mean to go to bed earlier than I do, and I have all sorts of reasons for what keeps me up, some good, others not so much.
As I argued in “Sleep on It,” a tired brain doesn’t give you your best ideas, so why not go to bed and let your brain expand, develop, play with what you have given it? Your writing process needs that down time so that your brain can add its unique perspective to what you’ve just written.
I may watch BBC World News at midnight, and I may make some notes to think about in the morning, but I don’t trust my critical thinking and judgment after a certain hour.
To supplement my nightly sleep I would love to take a short nap at 4 pm, but the late afternoon time isn’t my own.
However, maybe I should take back that time.
And if you need additional reasons to nap, a mid-day nap also helps your metabolism (did I hear “slim”?).
In that article, Allie Grasgreen writes about The University of California at Davis’s systematic endeavor to encourage students to nap. The school sells packets with earplugs and an eye mask and offers a “nap map” for good places to nap.
I swear by my five- minute nap, which I can take just about anywhere (except when I’m driving or talking on the phone, of course), but a 20-minute nap does sound appealing, don’t you think?
Could you fit in a short mid-afternoon nap to improve your focus and productivity? There are all sorts of barriers we could bring up, but really, how hard would it be? And what’s 20 minutes versus improved focus and productivity. Aren’t they priceless?
My best to you,
Posted in academic, accountability, advisor, choice, determination, dissertation advisors, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, family, finishing the dissertation, mental toughness, motivation, perseverance, resilience, self-discipline, setbacks, writing, tagged dissertation, dissertation advisor, dissertation coach, grit, hard choices, juggling dissertation with work and family, Memorial Day, mental toughness, writing on May 25, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
I have coached many people who write dissertations while juggling the demands of family life. It’s difficult to juggle the daily demands, but to give up a holiday with one’s family is a particularly hard choice to make.
As the Memorial Day holiday approaches here in the U.S., I am thinking back to a Memorial Day weekend years ago when I had to choose my dissertation over the holiday weekend with my family. Now it seems as if it was a small sacrifice, and completing a dissertation definitely requires some sacrifices. But at the time, I felt that the dissertation process had demanded too much from me one too many times.
In my Washington, DC suburb, Memorial Day has always been a day for ritual and fun. The day begins with a 3K Fun Run. The day proceeds with a fair and a parade and back-yard picnics. Except for the one year when I had to spend the whole weekend once again revising the intro to my diss.
My defense was approaching. I thought I was on track since the full draft of the dissertation had been revised many times and had finally been approved. Only the intro needed one more rewrite, and I had done that, following the straightforward suggestions for revising from my advisor. I then sent the rewritten Intro off to him.
Just before Memorial Day, he returned the revision to me with a note saying that I should take out all of the newly added pages and re-work the whole chapter.
I was dumbfounded. I knew better, but because the deadline was so close I wrote to him, saying that I had done what he had told me to do. His only comment was that he didn’t want to be told what he had said.
I hoped that I hadn’t alienated him. And I knew that I had to grind out the new rewrite immediately. I gave up my holiday weekend with my family and sat in front of my computer for the holiday.
As I look back on that weekend now, years later, I have changed my perspective on several counts.
I remember now that when I was revising the Intro, my advisor’s suggestions struck me as a bit off the mark. But I didn’t raise any questions or concerns with him. Of course, the advisor is always right, but it would have been smart to at least give voice to my concerns.
It strikes me now that perhaps I was even a bit lazy in adopting his comments without discussing my concerns with him or without thinking of an alternative approach.
As for that Memorial Day weekend, I don’t think that my kids felt neglected. I did miss out on some fun, but I bounced back. It wasn’t the end of the world. And I think my kids learned something about how much work it takes to finish big projects.
What I had to do was draw on my resolve and my mental toughness to get through this challenge.
Over the long period of time that I worked on the whole dissertation, I learned the value of building perseverance, resilience, and courage. Actually, learning to rely on those strengths may be the life-changing and lasting benefit for me of writing the dissertation.
If you, too, are finding yourself drawing on and building your mental toughness and resolve as you write your dissertation, I salute you. Only in such a long-term, large project do you find such an opportunity.
Posted in academic, boundaries, commitment, determination, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, family, mental toughness, motivation, planning, restart writing, self-sabotage, time management, writing, writing schedule, tagged dissertation, dissertation coach, full-time jobs, juggling dissertation with work and family, scheduling dissertation time, writing on May 21, 2011 | 4 Comments »
A few months ago a person who had finished her course work for her Ph.D., but had not done much toward her dissertation, wrote to say that as someone who worked full-time away from home, she couldn’t fathom how she could add writing her dissertation to the mix of not only working full-time, but also being a mother and a wife.
That’s a wrenching situation—one I struggled with many years ago as I tried to add a dissertation to a full-time teaching appointment, two children, a husband, and a house.
Currently, several of the women that I coach have demanding, full-time professional jobs, as well as other people in their lives. Two in particular have put off writing their dissertations for just about as long as they possibly could, and so now, busy as they are, they have embarked on the most demanding writing project they may ever have.
One of them had set a series of deadlines for herself, but was wondering how she could possibly meet them. I asked her, “How many times a week will have to work on your writing to keep it moving forward and to keep it at the center of your mind?”
She said in a quiet voice, “I think I will have to work on it and touch it every day. I think I will have to work on it 2 hours every day.”
After considering the potential times in a day when she could work, she decided that she will work from 4 to 6 pm . . . in her office before she leaves for the evening.
Here are some tips if you, too, need to make time during your day or at the end of your day to work on your dissertation:
Let your brain help you make a writing habit
Tell yourself early in the day–each day that you will write– the following:
“If it’s 4 pm, then I will start my writing session.”
It sounds simplistic, but saying that to yourself lets your mind start to watch for 4 pm. Try it–you’ll be surprised at how almost without thinking you act on your intention to start your writing session.
Establish a boundary to separate office work from the dissertation
You’re already at your desk, so you won’t be changing locations. But literally put your dissertation in the center of the desk. Move anything having to do with your office work off the desk or stack it or turn off the computer files so that you won’t wander back into left-over work from your day.
Prepare the night before
The night before, plan what you will be working on; choose any books or articles you may need to take with you. Set your goal for the content and the amount of text you will write.
Involve your partner/spouse
Tell your partner or spouse what you are going to do the next day on your dissertation. Talk for a few minutes about the plan and even rehearse how you want it to go.
But, but, but….
Are you immediately ticking off all the reasons why you couldn’t do this? But stop for a minute. How could you modify this plan that so it will work for you?
If you need to shorten the after-work writing session to one hour, then do that. If you need to get to work earlier in order to stop earlier, then do that. If you can write only 3 nights a week, then do that.
American television journalist Norah O-Donnell and BBC’s Katty Kay both say that as women with three or four children each, they work faster and more efficiently than many others around them. They work quickly and with determination so that they can get home to their families.
Working toward getting better at being an efficient, productive writer sounds like a great goal, don’t you think?
If you want to start making headway on your dissertation, even though you have a day job and a family, try working on your dissertation before you leave your office for the day. This is a good plan. Give it an honest try.
If you have put a similar plan in place, how is it working for you? I would love to hear from you.
All good wishes,
Posted in academic, dissertation writing, productivity, Smart Tips, time management, write more easily, writing, tagged academic, access to your files, cloud computing, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, DropBox, Smart Tips for Writers, Washington Post, writing on May 4, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Do you work on multiple computers? How are you dealing with the need to make optimum use of your time and to make headway on your dissertation no matter at which one of those multiple computers you find yourself?
Have you heard of cloud computing?
“Cloud computing isn’t merely on the way; it’s already here, big time,” says the Washington Post.
To have access to your files no matter your location and no matter the computer you are using, you can set up a Dropbox in the cloud.
She says, “I can save files at work and access them anywhere I have internet access.” And, she adds, Dropbox “is also a good way to share large files that are too big to e-mail.”
Once you access your file, you can update it and then leave that updated file in the Dropbox. Then the latest version is always available.
You can put audio and video files into Dropbox. There is also a smartphone app.
My reader strongly recommends DropBox. She says it would be a very good way to back up a dissertation online. She continues, “If a computer is stolen, the Dropbox files would still be safe.”
The Washington Post says that “every time you make a change to the Dropbox folder on your computer” the “mirror folder in the cloud . . . updates . . . the Dropbox folder on all your other computing devices, integrating all your digital devices. The result is that all your files are available in their most current form on every device.”
Dropbox will give you two gigs free. Give it a try, and please let me know what you think of it.
I’m hoping Dropbox will help you make better use of your time and will increase your productivity.
Posted in commitment, courage, determination, discipline, dissertation boot camp, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, finishing the dissertation, following through, mental toughness, momentum, re-group, writing, tagged discipline, Holding it all together, Linchpin, location, structure, thesis, writing on February 20, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Do you feel that you’re like that woman in online advertisements who seems to be turning in one direction, but then all of a sudden, even while you are looking at her, has turned and is now going in an opposite direction? Do you need something holding you and your intentions together?
You need a linchpin—the pin that locks a wheel in place or the critical element in an argument or in a system that ties everything together and makes it all work.
Where is the support or the critical element that keeps you and your writing on track and making headway?
When I was talking recently with a dissertation coaching client, I realized that she had taken the major steps to put a linchpin in place, but there was still more to be done if it was to perform critically.
Her daily schedule is peppered with many different activities, commitments, meetings, responsibilities, volunteer work.
In the middle of her daily schedule, written in boldface, is the name of an undergraduate class in which she has enrolled. She is taking the class voluntarily, and she loves it.
She’s a bit embarrassed to admit that she’s doing so brilliantly in the class when she is making only modest progress on her dissertation.
But she is clear about why she took the class. She says that she wants to prove to herself that when something is required on a regular basis, she can indeed do the work and do it well. This class has the making of a linchpin.
The class not only gives her a routine, but it also gets her to campus. Her hope had been that she would go to the library and work, but after the class is over, she goes home and lets down.
Before she knows it, the afternoon is gone, and along with it the time she could have put on her dissertation.
It’s curious how we can easily make a misstep or take the wrong road. But with a dissertation, everything is fixable.
Given that she is very clear about why she wanted to take the class, she has everything she needs in order to regroup. In order for her to get some work done, she needs to stay on campus and not fall back into the beleaguered grad student mentality. Rather than let down and lose her momentum, she can make use of the mindset, energy, and good mood that she has when she leaves her class.
She has already made the commitment to take a class that would get her to campus. The next critical step is to take advantage of the location.
You do so much that is right. For the most part, you set yourself up for success. You may have the linchpin almost in place. However, like my dissertation coaching client, you may need an added measure of support and a bit of a shift for the linchpin to fall into place.
What is your linchpin?
All good wishes,
Posted in academic, brave, commitment, courage, dissertation boot camp, dissertation coach, dissertation writing, procrastination, Smart Tips, start writing, trusting yourself, writing, tagged aha moment, commitment, write before you're ready, writing on February 14, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
“Commit to paper” is a common, but powerful phrase.
You don’t need to have already had the aha moment in order to write.
There’s no holding back when you allow yourself to see that you have enough to start.
Surrender and go with what you have.
On Valentine’s Day, it’s time to commit . . . . Commit to paper.
All good wishes,
P.S. Would you like to receive my e-newsletter Smart Tips for Writers? You can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).