Archive for October, 2010

Do Something That Scares You Every Day

How do you keep focused on your writing goal?  Our Lizard Brains can make it all too easy to let a goal slip, and with each deadline or marker you miss, it’s that much longer before you finish your dissertation.

FutureMe at www.futureme.org is a helpful tool for accountability as you write your dissertation.  

You can send an email to your future self anywhere from one month to 30 years or more in the future.  But let’s not think about 30 years from now! 

Let’s talk about your short-term goals.

Here’s my request– write an email to yourself to be delivered close to the time of your next deadline or short-term goal (and I’m hoping that deadline is within the next 6 weeks).  Write in that email the specifics that you have in place that will make hitting that deadline a cinch. 

 Make sure that you include in the email the distractions you must say no to if you are to reach your writing goal.

 When your Future Self receives this email, it will be cause for celebration.  You have stuck to your plan, and the email is a pat on the back for you.

 Such things as FutureMe are great ways to help you stay on track.

 Another way to keep you accountable is to hire a dissertation coach. 

 The more frequently you check up on yourself and the more importance you attach to doing what you said you would do, the sooner the diss will be over and done with.

How are you doing with accountability?  Need some help with that?  I’d love to hear from you.

All good wishes,


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


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Image by peirunman via Flickr

How does your back feel? 

If you’re like many writers of dissertations, you sit scrunched in front of your computer for far too long with far too few breaks.  And by those last 15 minutes of writing you feel the spasms of pain in your lower back.

You might be surprised at the number of my dissertation coaching clients who complain of back pain.  

But I’m not.

When I was writing my dissertation, I developed back pain and sciatica. I had to have an ice pack under my leg in order to drive the car.  And when the pain forced me to stop sitting at my computer, I had to stop writing my dissertation.

I finally was referred to a surgeon named Dr.  Hope.  Isn’t that an amazing name for a doctor?  (Note to self:  If I ever play a doctor on TV, that’s the name I want!)

Long story short, I had surgery, recovered, finished my dissertation.

If I had taken the time to care for myself properly when I began the dissertation, I think I could have dealt better with the pressure of the work and perhaps warded off the onset of pain.  Now I plan my weekly schedule around exercise.

And I’m always struck by how regular exercise is helping many of my clients to better manage their writing and all that goes with writing a dissertation.

I’m curious—is a trip to the gym  a high priority for you?

I would love to hear from you.

All good wishes,


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
[email protected]

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Shopping for pumpkins at Thanksgiving in Ottaw...

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I’m grateful for Canada.

I’ve loved my trips to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec and am eager to see more of Canada.  

I’m grateful for my Canadian friends and for my coaching clients in Canada.

Happy Thanksgiving on October 11 to all of you.

All good wishes,


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Six degrees of separation: Artistic visualization.

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“I’ve had very little, if any, support from my advisor or my committee,” and so began another coaching call this morning with the writer of a dissertation. 

Many dissertation coaching clients say that their advisors are hands-off, giving little or no substantive feedback, or not wanting to see a dissertation at all until it’s complete. 

Does this sound familiar?  Do you feel you’ve depleted your resources, and you need some content-specific help? 

What to do? Here are some ideas from some of my coaching colleagues and also from some of my clients. 

1.  You shouldn’t have to look outside your program for content-specific help.  If you have a coach, one of your coaching goals could be improving communication with your advisor (or someone else on your committee) who has the relevant background knowledge. Work with your coach to plan your strategy. 

2. If you can think of someone who might know someone who can get you closer to a source, you will eventually succeed.  Think about Stanley Milgram‘s Small World experiment (which inspired the Six Degrees of Separation book and movie.) 

3. Post a question on Linked-In or make up your own study group. 

4.  Engage a willing friend, colleague, or coach to read some of your text and ask you questions about what’s going on.  Tell your reader to be curious.  You want a naïve reader, not a critical expert. The right questions can help you move toward a breakthrough. 

5.  Take a class!  
As a client phrased it, “Make your own Woody Allen moment—here comes the director onto the stage.”  Figure out who could be your Woody Allen. Who is the person you most want to learn from? Then sign up for a class from that person, and write the paper for the class.  

If your project has stalled and your advisor offers minimal to no support, you need a strategy. Think Small World.  Or make your own Woody Allen moment.  

Above all, prepare for a breakthrough. 

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