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Archive for November, 2009

When I’ve asked a dissertation coaching client if he or she would look at a problem through a lens of gratitude, I am first of all surprised at what I had just blurted out and I wonder what the client will say.  Secondly, I’m surprised at how almost immediately the client slows down, lets go of some anxiety around the writing process or the relationship with his or her advisor, and becomes thoughtful. 

The answer almost always reveals that the writer is considering a new way of looking at a problem.

Showing gratitude is a character strength that could take a bit more practice.  Our busy, stressful lives may give us little time or inclination to acknowledge the huge role others play in our lives. 

As we in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving this week, consider thanking someone who has been of help to you.

As for me, I thank you for reading my blog.  It’s good to know that you’re here.

With gratitude,

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

www.nancywhichard.com
website: www.nancywhichard.com
blog: successfulwritingtips.com

 

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Another convert to “Write First Thing”–hurray! 

One of my coaching clients said that he tried the method of getting up half an hour earlier than usual and working first-thing on some dissertation free-writing.  He said it worked great for him.  He got a lot of work done, not in those half-hours per se, but in the afternoons. 

He focuses on his dissertation before the day gets a good start, and then occasionally during the day at his office, he finds himself thinking about where his free-writing had taken him

Since he has had his dissertation on his mind off and on all day, he finds when he returns home later in the day that he has a ready starting point for his writing.

Interestingly, he actually thinks he’s more focused when he has just a half hour of free-writing each morning and then a couple of hours later in the day than when he has a whole day that he can give to his dissertation.

Sometimes less is more.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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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In order to accomplish the large amount of writing required for a dissertation in any sort of sane way, you need a schedule. 

A dissertation coaching client who has been juggling job/moving/dissertation has been struggling to find a time to write, a time that she’ll stick to.
 
She told me this week that she decided to read past issues of the ABDSurvivalGuide e-newsletter for suggestions, and what she came away with was “Write First Thing.”
 
Of course, she knew that I’d click my heels at the sound of that idea.  And indeed I did.  My client said that by going that route, she won’t feel that each evening she must rush out of the office at the first opportunity, dash home, and hurry through dinner in order to get in some writing. 

Should she be too exhausted to write after dinner, she won’t feel that she has failed. She’ll be able to point to the good hour of work she put in first thing that morning.
 
While “Write First Thing” is eminently reasonable and sane, your schedule must be one that works for you, allowing you to move forward on your diss, as well as providing time for all of the others things your busy life requires you to do.  And once it’s in place, you need to stick to it.
 
Dr. Tracy Steen, the brilliant and prolific writer/editor of the ABDSurvivalGuide, says that she definitely stuck to a writing schedule when she was in grad school.

I know many people who resist making a schedule, and daily they avoid writing.  What a lot of unnecessary suffering.
 
If you have no particular plan, why not get on board with a morning routine?  Make a schedule that has you getting up 30 minutes or an hour earlier than usual so that you Write First Thing?  Try it for at least a week and see if you write more that week than you have written for quite a while.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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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“ABD” is not a credential.  It isn’t a degree.  All things considered, finishing your dissertation is probably the smart thing to do.

It can help you get a job or keep the one you have.  Even if you aren’t going into the academic job market, for now, you may be surprised what a PhD can do for you on down the road somewhere.

Furthermore, sticking with your dissertation may give you the chance to learn something –quite a bit of something – that you didn’t know before.  It’s easy to disregard the dissertation process as a time for learning since the emphasis is on finishing and moving on.  

During the dissertation process, you may be fortunate enough to learn:
•  How to take care of yourself physically and emotionally so that you don’t sabotage your success
• How to understand fully that you have every right to the success you’re achieving
• How to take risks and to be bold in the writing process even though you’re scared
• How to recognize when you need help and to ask for it
• How to be clear-headed and reasonable even if your advisor is not clear-headed or reasonable
• How to write during whatever time, big or small, that you have
• How to find your way and to keep moving toward a big, difficult goal
• How to feel grateful for
       –the progress you are able to make
       –the opportunity to earn a PhD
       –an advisor who does his/her best to help you

All good wishes,

Nancy

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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How often have you felt close to giving up completely on your dissertation?

I hear that statement most frequently among my dissertation coaching clients who are practically within a stone’s throw of finishing.

What could make it so hard to keep going? 

The outsider might think that during the long process of writing a dissertation, writers would have grown to self-confidently view themselves as experts.

The fact of the matter is that dissertation writers all too often aren’t encouraged to recognize or trust their expertise. The process is often riddled with self-doubt and uncertainty. 

Even in the best of circumstances, writing a dissertation may be one of the hardest tasks you’ll ever take on.  It’s made worse when an advisor offers little or no guidance or support. The worst stories I’ve heard range from advisors who are completely disengaged and  want nothing to do with the ABD student to advisors who seem not only to lack empathy  but also lack awareness of the effect of their sarcasm and volatile moods.

Since most ABD’s work with the same advisor for months, if not years, what looks for all the world like psychological abuse can take a toll on even the most resilient and determined student.

When dissertation writers are confronted by self-doubt and the desire to quit, it’s time to step back from the process.

As a dissertation coach and an academic career coach, I encourage my clients to view their experiences through various lenses.  This may sound Pollyanna-ish, but you probably can’t change the process, so why not change the way you look at it?

For instance, what might a future employer—even if the employer is not in your field of expertise—infer about you, based on your having a PhD?

The knowledgeable future employer will understand that you know:
•  How to bring the best you have to offer to a project and keep yourself in the game over a long period of time
•  How to manage an extended project, specifically an extended writing project
•  How to be politically savvy

This is just a start– What else have learned during this arduous process? 

When you are honest with yourself, you must admit that you are learning a great deal about stamina and grit as you write this dissertation.  The character strengths you are honing are perhaps just as important as your accomplishments in your field of study. What have you learned that will stand you in good stead after you leave the state of the ABD?

I’d love to hear from you.

Best,

Nancy

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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Now that Halloween is over, it hasn’t taken long for me to eat all of the left-over chocolate-covered raisins that the trick-or-treaters rejected in favor of Snickers.
 
Having all of these tidy little packages of candy in my house once again reminds me of the dangers of home.  It’s just tempting fate to stay in your house along with Halloween candy.

It’s also tempting fate to try to write your dissertation at home sweet home.

If you insist on writing at home, write as soon as you get up, just you, your cup of coffee and your computer, but no email. 

Where home sweet home often doesn’t work is if you’ve been teaching all morning, and you come home in the early afternoon with the hope of getting some writing done. Then what happens?  I know that a select few of you are as disciplined as tigers.  You rush in from work or teaching, sit down, bite off a chunk of research, and write ferociously for four hours and produce many pages. 

But most people, coming home in the early or late afternoon from work, feel they’ve done their work for the day.  If this is you, the couch and TV are likely more compelling than the dissertation.
 
If you want to write at home, but you can’t start a writing session first thing each day, one of my dissertation coaching clients has two great ideas:
1.  Unplug your internet
2.  Don’t immediately change out of your professional clothes when you get home from work

Unplugging your internet may sound severe, but eliminating temptation is smart.

And why stay in your uncomfortable work clothes after you get home?  If you  promise yourself that all you have to do is sit down and work for 45 minutes in those uncomfortable work clothes before changing, you may very well have rescued an otherwise doomed writing session.  Isn’t getting started the hardest part? 

 Good luck!

Nancy

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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