Many times writers hire me to coach them because they’re stuck. They haven’t made substantial progress on their dissertation for months.
What stuck often means is that the writers are having trouble claiming a chunk of time for the writing because of time-sucks. Time-sucks come in all sizes and shapes.
Facebook and email will be your undoing.
Friend—give them up!
In the interest of full disclosure, I do go on Facebook, but only because my nieces talked me into doing it. I joined in order to see pictures of the little ones who live far and away. No matter how many subscriptions I give to Your Big Backyard, Ranger Rick, National Geographic for Kids and Cricket, I get fewer and fewer pictures in the mail. Thank-you notes, yes. Pictures of the kids, not so many. Thus, Facebook, but it’s just for the pictures.
Babies are notorious time-sucks.
Being a parent is high on the list for time-sucks, especially if your kids are young. The youngest addition to my extended family showed up in a picture on Facebook with the words “Mommy’s attention hog” on his t-shirt.
Because of a singular moment, I remember what I was thinking or not thinking around the time my youngest started kindergarten. I was standing in line at the grocery and for the first time in ages I was startled to catch myself lost in thought.
When one has kids, the state of being lost in thought takes planning and distance.
Mindless activities get few gold stars.
How much cleaning and straightening and folding do you need to do in order to feel good? I think the more mindless activities you do, the worse you feel, kind of like eating Snickers bars, but I may be wrong.
I am bothered by the stacks of files and papers in my house. I’ve delegated those decluttering tasks to 2 hours on Sunday while I watch TV. Today was the second Sunday for using my new plan, and I’ve cleaned up a few stacks. Two hours seem about right for me. Any more than that and I’m suspicious that I’m procrastinating on something more important.
Feel guilty asking for help from your spouse?
Moms, especially, think they can multi-task, even if it’s writing a dissertation at the same time as they’re refereeing a tug-of-war the boys are having over a toy.
A favorite story from a client was that she felt guilty asking her husband to take care of the kids on a Sunday afternoon when he worked so hard all week, and she, ostensibly, only had to take care of the kids. The husband didn’t really mind taking care of the kids, She would go to the library, and he would add seats for the kids in front of the TV—and not to watch cartoons, but to watch golf! Not the worst thing, right? The story goes that the kids learned to love golf.
What I hear from my clients suggests that time skitters around corners, never to be seen, never to be caught, much as if it were a two-year-old. Sometimes it sounds as if time makes itself available only to the lucky or to those with nannies or to the childless.
It’s true that there are inequities. Too often women have waited their turn to finish a degree. The spouse finishes first, and then if there are kids, moms can sometimes put their writing further and further down on their priority lists.
But the person who takes responsibility for negotiating relationships and asking for what she needs will see time emerging.
Time is both elusive and valuable. Be bold and brave— ask your spouse for what you need. Carve time out of the day, and claim that precious commodity for your important, but sadly neglected job of writing. Plan and use time as if it were made of gold. Because it is.
I’d love to hear from you—what challenges are you having around time?
All good wishes,
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach