If you have been teaching this past semester and also trying to find the energy to write even the piddliest amount, then seeing the semester coming to an end must seem heaven-sent. Just when you thought you couldn’t keep going, here suddenly are days with no classes and no students.
When I ask my dissertation clients who have been teaching this semester what challenges are they facing now, similar issues come up. Worries about grading exams and student papers pull at many people. Some mention designing a questionnaire, others of finding people to take the questionnaire. Some are worn down at the thought of once again trying to coax help from an advisor who won’t advise and or finding faculty willing to serve on their dissertation committee.
But the challenges that I hear the most often are problems of concentrating or focusing and getting some writing done.
Now that there’s some time to focus and write, they’re feeling scattered by the need to shop for gifts. They’re already feeling tense about travelling home or to the in-laws. Some allow themselves to indulge in anxiety about the syllabus for next semester’s class.
If so, it’s time to pull yourself up short.
You have an opportunity during these golden days before family responsibilities and holiday rituals take over. You can see time, precious time, that’s yours, if you claim it.
The advice is simple — don’t blow it off. Slow down and think about what you can do today.
1. Maintain your priority. The other things should require only a minimal effort.
2. You’ve graded exams and papers before. Grind them out.
3. You’ve done all of this holiday business before. Planning, shopping, wrapping, packing. You can do that with your eyes shut.
4. Make sure you write when you are at your freshest, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s o.k. to let the day float away because you’re at your best at midnight.
5. Draw boundaries around the time you’ve claimed for yourself each day—boundaries that keep you in and others out.
6. In addition to carving out a piece of time, also carve out a piece of work that is do-able in the time you’re giving yourself each day.
7. Overall, each piece isn’t that hard—tell yourself that and believe it. Looking at the whole darn thing is overwhelming. Don’t do that.
8. Carve out your time, your work, your space, and get started.
Each day, slowly and calmly, remind yourself that writing matters. In fact, tell yourself it’s your top priority. Nothing matters as much as the writing task you’ve assigned to yourself for the day. And all you have to do is that one bit of writing.
Get started sooner, rather than later.
Let me hear how it’s going for you.
One step at a time!
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach