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Archive for July, 2009

“How would I rate my self-care this week, particularly in the area of exercise?” is one of the questions I ask my clients to think about before we have our coaching call.

Since many of my coaching clients are writers, and many of those writers are trying to find time to write a dissertation, I have a hard sell in trying to convince them to put more time into exercising.  One client says, “I just loathe ‘working out,’ especially since it uses up so much valuable time.”

And another response– “I can’t even imagine how I would enjoy adding regular exercise into my daily routine without hating every minute of it.”

To fight my own resistance to exercise, I plan my weekly schedule around exercise.  Like writing, exercise needs to be a habit.

Here are nine benefits that I have found from exercising:

1. It improves my mood.  After I exercise, it is always easier to start writing because I am in a good mood.

2.  It helps me think. My creativity is unleashed.  Ideas pop into my mind while I’m working out.

3.  It frees my mind to process ideas that I had been working on or issues that I haven’t been actively engaged with.

4.  It dissipates anxiety.  I’m always much calmer and more relaxed once I have exercised.

5.  It vents some of my meanness, allowing me to be the nice person I like to think I am.

6.  I have more energy on a daily basis if I’ve been exercising regularly.

7.  It eats calories and also helps control my eating.  Controlling my emotional eating is a great thing.

8.  It fights Alzheimer’s.  Also, if you’re thin and at one time you were a smoker, you should be exercising /lifting weights to fight osteoporosis.

9.  When I exercise with a group, I fight feelings of loneliness that are all too common with writers (and introverts). 

And here’s a bonus reason:  Rather than taking too much time, exercise actually helps me be a more productive writer.

Are you including exercise in your schedule?  How are you doing that?  I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  Could exercising be one of your goals for August and September?  Email me to help put some specifics around a goal. 

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach

www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com

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Are you negotiating some of life’s bits and pieces today in order to write your dissertation?   Has something gotten to you today or this week?  It happens.

We’re knocked about every day, but we keep going, even with pressures about fitting everything into our schedules, uncertainties about jobs, and, if you commute to work, traffic.  Usually, we’re resilient, even intrepid, as we go about our jobs, taking care of our family, and, yes, writing… writing dissertations, writing articles, writing books.

But occasionally, we run into overwhelm, too many promises broken, too little support, and our hope and resilience are tested.

Yesterday and today I’ve been mad as a hornet about something that’s not very important in the great scheme of things.  I was to have some work done where I live, but the workers showed up with the wrong materials to do the job, resulting in a the need to reschedule and the strong possibility that lots of additional people would be inconvenienced.

It wasn’t the workers’ fault.  The faceless scheduler at the company carelessly assigned a two-person crew to a four-person job and completely ignored both the materials needed and the sequence of the steps in the job itself.

What kind of a Mickey Mouse company is this? I asked.  I stomped about and fretted for quite a while.  But it doesn’t serve me to blow up about a dysfunctional company. 

How do I let go of the drama and not get stuck here?  What strengths do I call on?

If you, too, are occasionally knocked off your stride, what do you do to help you let go of the madness and move back toward your center? What do you do to quickly regain your footing in order to focus on your work and to be productive?

I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  What is your goal over the next couple of weeks and what steps are you taking to keep focused on that goal?  Do you have some tips for the rest of us or some questions? 

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach

www.nancywhichard.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net

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What does August have in common with January and New Year’s? 

If you are an  academic writer, a PhD in academia, or an ABD, the last half of summer and August, in particular, may be the calm before the storm, the last best chance to do some serious writing before classes start and maybe before your advisor  (or department chair) returns to campus and you have to face him or her.

Just as in January, when everyone is urging you to start afresh, to lose weight, to join a gym, with August looming, you are now getting offers of four free sessions with a coaching group or membership in a low-cost online writing group.  Come closer to the August dissertation/academic writing hype—use the hype to start your own fire. 

You could try my Boot Camp, or steal my model for yourself.

My Boot Camp is a concentrated 2-week session in which I ask writers to commit to write four hours daily. Writers draw firm boundaries to eliminate distractions and to avoid setting themselves up for failure.  For accountability, I ask clients to email me after each daily writing session. 

By sticking to the plan, a success strategy is in motion.  Over the two weeks, writing becomes a habit because success is a habit.

Even if you’re working full time and also juggling a dissertation, you can make time over the next few weeks if you open yourself to the potential for summer productivity.

Don’t let this season of opportunities pass you by. If you’ve been an on-again, off-again dissertation writer for far too long, establish the writing habit and enjoy successful writing. 

Enjoy the success of building a consistent, daily, robust writing habit. 

I’m keeping an eye on the calendar.  Are you?

Nancy

P.S.  If you’re interested in successful writing and summer productivity, I’d like to hear from you.  Have you tried Boot Camp? Check out my tips at my website—www.nancywhichard.com and www.dissertationbootcamp.net.

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach

www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net

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Putting others first is a strength, but using that strength casually and even irresponsibly can lead to procrastinating on your dissertation.

If one of your top strengths is the ability to love and be loved, you can be assured that you won’t be lonely in your old age.  Probably you won’t be lonely before you ever reach old age.

Since the ability to love and be loved is one of the five strengths that most likely will lead to happiness or satisfaction with your life, how could that strength ever get you into trouble?

Clearly, you could love the wrong person too much, but what if you have a supportive family?  Only a crabby, mean-spirited dissertation coach would ever suggest that you could show too much love to your family.

Here’s a case in point:  I send my clients a welcome packet when they begin coaching with me, and one question I ask is “What usually motivates you?”

Often the answer is “others motivate me,” as in:
•  Grandma is lonely, and it’s been a long time since we went to see her, even if this is a busy time for me, or
•  Of course, I’ll head up the drive for membership for our ______ (fill in the blank:  church, community pool, Habitat for Humanity group).

Others matter, and for some people, others come first, even when it’s a detriment to your meeting your dissertation deadlines.

If this sounds like you, try looking at your ability to love and be loved through a different lens:

1.  Excuse to dawdle?  How happy could you make your immediate family/significant other if you were to meet your dissertation deadline and actually get ever closer to the finish line?  What is your family giving up in order for you to dawdle on your dissertation?

2.  Family as human shield?  Impossible?  Are you at least sometimes using your family as an excuse to avoid your work?

3.  Leverage your ability to love and be loved.  Is perseverance not a top strength? Instead of organizing trips, dinners, and family Facebook pages, consider leveraging your ability to love others in order to persevere with your dissertation.

4. Promise to celebrate a milestone in your work with your family later on. Have you asked your family what they want?  Does your mother or your extended family in Ohio really require you to come to the various family reunions/weddings/birthday gatherings and thereby eat up the last precious weeks of August?

5.  Show your love by saying no to 3 requests this week.  Use the time gained to work on your dissertation.

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  What deadlines have you set for yourself over the next four weeks?  Want some suggestions?  Go to www.nancywhichard.com or www.usingyourstrengths.com.

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach

www.nancywhichard.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net
www.usingyourstrengths.com

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When the end of your dissertation is in sight, what will you do?

If you’re struggling just to get started on your dissertation, the question “What will you do when the end is in sight” must sound rhetorical at best and silly at worst.

Nevertheless, I’ve learned from my clients that minefields await writers when the work nears an end.

Slacking off. When the work is going well and you’re on schedule to wrap it up soon, do you decide to take the day off?  Or cut back on the amount of time you put into your daily writing sessions?  Some writers tell me that they fight the tendency to coast toward the end, giving rise to their bad habits of sloughing off and taking far too long to wrap up the final chapter or even the last few bits.

Celebrating too soon.  Did you play in music contests or recitals when you were young?  Did you play well through the difficult sections, but somehow always messed up just before the end?  Had you become so impressed by your performance that your overconfidence allowed you to hit a sour note?  Were you rushing to finish and not paying attention?  You never know what might happen to your project if you don’t stay focused.  Hold off on the celebrations until you’ve got the work out the door.

Determined to be perfect.  If your signature strength is Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, do you put yourself through hell until you think your work is perfect?  Is it very difficult for you to say and to accept that a chapter or a page is good enough and move on to the next section? Are you sometimes nearly paralyzed by your perfectionism, particularly when a project nears its end? Striving for excellence is commendable, except when it keeps you from finishing a project.

Perfectionism not only slows down your productivity, but it can continue to disable you with the possibility of fairly dire consequences.  A Canadian study of senior citizens found that more perfectionists died during the study than people “with more reasonable self-expectations” (http://www.miller-mccune.com/news/perfectionism-linked-to-early-death-1229).

People who coast at the end of a project or those who become overconfident throw unnecessary roadblocks in their own way.  However, with a resurgence of self-knowledge and mental toughness, they can make the necessary corrections and follow through with the dissertation to its completion.

Perfectionists, on the other hand, may be unable to crank out the last chapter or it may be so difficult for them that they slow almost to a halt.  If this sounds like you, ask yourself how many people will ever read your dissertation.  Besides your committee, maybe two other people?

If you’re a perfectionist, your dissertation will probably never rise to your expectations.  It’s not worth putting yourself through all of this pain. Hold your nose and email your dissertation to your advisor.

Time to move on!

All the best,

Nancy

P.S. Are you trying to wrap up your writing in the next month or six weeks?  What would make it easer to get this done?  I’d like to hear from you.  For more tips, check out my website at www.nancywhichard.com.

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach

www.nancywhichard.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net

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Writers, particularly dissertators, often share the character strengths of curiosity and love of learning.

Do you have both of those strengths?  If you’re writing a dissertation, I’ll bet you do. Many of my clients possess those two powerful strengths (I ask all of my coaching clients to take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire at www.authentichappiness.com,).

Those two strengths are the drivers behind the great research and a-ha moments that many of my writers have achieved.

Unfortunately, they’ve also caused many wild goose chases, dives into rabbit holes, and forgotten deadlines.

Take note that while love of learning and curiosity may help to define you, indeed, they may be your signature strengths, they can also derail your writing plan.  If your chosen trajectory toward finishing is important to you, you need to know when and how to reign in your curiosity.  It’s a skill worth learning.

It might be wise to ask this question of yourself: Are you meeting the deadlines you set for yourself? 

If not, then consider these suggestions:
1.  Enough’s enough. Give yourself a firm end point for research of any sort. Whether you’re reading on a big topic or looking for more information on a small fact, set a stopping point.  

2.  No more rudderless writing.  What content are you developing in this writing session?  Clarify your writing goals. To keep yourself from drifting away from your writing and into checking out ever more research, know the focus of your writing session and stick to it.  Hint:  Outlines still work!  They can keep you on track or close to it.

3. To produce text, you need destination writing.  Push to produce text—that’s the goal for you.  To do that, set a minimum of what you will deliver in a two hour session. Don’t overpromise, but promise something.

Academic and professional writers must be practical.  Your job is to write.  Time to toughen your resolve, and reign in your curiosity.

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  Do you have a deadline in your sights?  I’d love to hear how you’re doing.  The next four weeks are critical for many writers.  If you’re interested in how you can ratchet up your productivity, check out my website at www.nancywhichard.com.

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach

www.nancywhichard.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net
www.usingyourstrengths.com

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You’ve just returned from a trip?  What can you do to move quickly into your writing, with no resistance?

Try these steps:

1.  If you didn’t leave a clean desk, clean it now.  Sort the mail, the bills, and the magazines quickly and remove them from the desk.

2.  If you haven’t made a plan for what you will do right now (the day/night of your return), make a plan now.  Is it important to create more order for yourself?  Do you need to unpack now and do laundry? 

3.  If you aren’t going to do any writing now (the day of your return), make sure that you review where you will start tomorrow.  Be ready to start fresh on the following day. Make this a planning time— do what is necessary to eliminate email and other distractions.

4.  Now it’s time to write. Email can wait. 

5.  Open your files; breathe deeply; settle in.  This is all abut getting back into the text, but you need to slow everything down so that you can center and focus

6.  Read what you wrote during your last writing session in order to settle into your text, but gear up to write.  Be ready to move forward.

7.  Set your timer—what is the minimum length for this writing session?

Good luck!  You’re off and running.

Welcome back!

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  How’s your summer writing progressing?  Do you have any tips to share on what is working for you?  I’d love to hear from you.

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach

www.nancywhichard.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net

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