Whenever you have pen in hand or hands on keys, ready to start on your dissertation, do you suddenly feel tired? Moments before, were you bustling around, perhaps busy just for the sake of being busy?
1. Get out of your own way
Nothing stands between you and your dissertation, except for yourself. Even if you could have started writing earlier, let that go and focus on now. Now you have a choice—even if you feel sluggish. You can give in and decide you need a nap, or you can talk yourself past this moment.
2. Be gentle, yet firm
Give yourself a chance to become present—push aside the rest of what is going on in your life. Do what you need to do in order to settle in and turn your thoughts to the work at hand.
3. Here we go! Paper or screen?
If you’re like me, you prefer to start with a pen and paper. I like a pen that is smear-proof. I hate getting ink all over my clothes and hands (o.k., I”m messy!). I also like a yellow legal pad. The screen will be there later, but for now I need something less rigid and unyielding than a screen.
4. Let go— crank it up!
You need to find the easiest and most efficient way to generate and then capture ideas. That may mean listening to some loud music for a minute to crank up your energy level and to get you going. Then start writing. Write in fragments and phrases. Write quickly—don’t stop or that law of inertia will let you grind to a halt. It takes only a second for inerta to set in and for the Lizard Brain to snag us.
5. Be bold – dart past Lizard Brain
We often throw out the excuse that if we write quickly, our writing won’t be worth much. At that moment, Lizard Brain sees its opening and rushes in to protect us. Result– we don’t write anything. But haven’t you heard that we usually throw out 2/3 of what we write for a dissertation? The only way to get that 1/3 that you’re going to keep is to work fast to get the bad writing out there on the page, ready to be cut later on. Go for momentum. Remember that everything is fixable.
6. Set a realistic goal for how long you’ll write—shorter is better
What’s a realistic goal? Start with the amount of time you can bare to sit still. A number that doesn’t make you throw up your hands in despair and wail that you’ll never be able even to sit down if you have to write for that long. Set a goal that you know you can achieve. Yes, 15 minutes is perfectly fine for a writing session. And then stop—don’t go past that time.
7. Be smart as a fox
If you stop at the time you set, you will not feel burned out. What’s better, even if it’s a piddly amount of time, you will smile slyly to yourself that you actually made your goal. Sitting down to write the next time will be much easier if you made your goal today.
What would you add for #8? I’d love to hear from you!
Here’s to smiling slyly,
Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com