Archive for the ‘acting as if’ Category

Getting some writing done this week will happen only if you let people know that you’re using every spare minute to write.

You need to go public and let others know that you aren’t kidding.  Then throw yourself into your writing.

One person I know says that for her status on Facebook this week, she has written “Lockdown.” 

When people email her and gingerly suggest getting together, she doesn’t waste time in saying not now, not this week.

When I was writing my dissertation, I always wished that I had a writing cottage or that I could afford a writing retreat.  I’m a big believer in acting as if, so I put a sign on the door to my study that said, “Mom’s in Maine.” Then I put a postcard picture of a cottage on my bulletin board on the wall beside my desk so that I would see the cottage whenever I looked away from my writing,

To make this week count, to set yourself up for a week of successful writing, choose the perspective that will let you be the most dedicated and productive writer you can be. 

Go public—tell others and post your signs.  

Then create a visual as if and transport yourself to that envisioned place where you will be free to write. 

This is the time of year when you need a little extra support.  I have something that will be of help.  Go to www.nwcoaching.com and get a free sign-up bonus when you subscribe to my Smart Tips for Writers e-newsletter. The bonus is a great gift–one you can use.

Until next time,

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The holiday vortex –this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s –can suck the energy out of the weak or unprepared.

But for many  veteran writers, and if dissertation writers aren’t veteran writers, I don’t know who would be, this week and next week offer some great writing moments.

If handled right, these next two weeks may be just the right time to step up your process.

When you feel like you don’t have time to write your diss, that may actually be the time to look for 20 minutes here and there

Maintain the high level of energy that being busy and even a bit crazy this week have given you. 

If you maintain that level of energy, you think only about doing the next important task. 
You don’t give yourself the chance to make up excuses or to question whether you know what you’re doing. 

It’s possible that the more you have going on, the more you want to come back to your writing.  After being pulled in two or three other directions, you value the time you can put on your diss.

You ask:  “Oh, what can I get done in the next ten days when so much else is going on?” The answer lies in this way of thinking: Think of the time when you were the most productive in the least amount of time.  Live in that moment.

If you did it before, you can do it again.

Keep busy.  Maintain that high-energy level.  Storm ahead.  And everyone else—stand back, folks!  Out of the way! Writer at work!

This is the time of year when you need a little extra support.  I have something that will be of help.  Go to www.nwcoaching.com and get a free sign-up bonus when you subscribe to my Smart Tips for Writers e-newsletter.

Until next time,

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In a recent conversation, a tenured professor at a large research university told me that he left it up to his doctoral students to get in touch with him.

He didn’t say that he doesn’t want to invite more work since he already has more to do than he can get done, but that might have been partially his reason for waiting.

I sympathize with the workload many professors carry.   In departments with which I’ve had first-hand experience, primarily those in the liberal arts and social sciences, professors work very hard:
• Preparing for classes and meeting with students from their current classes;
• Actually reading the papers their students write;
• Enduring hours of committee work and departmental meetings;
• Trying to find time to conduct research and write their own papers and articles.

But wait a minute– the truth is that in the relationship with his doctoral student, this kind, intelligent tenured professor holds all the cards.   All of the power in this relationship is on his side, or so goes the thinking of most ABD’s.

Many doctoral students feel paralyzed by overwhelming anxiety and unrealistic fears at the thought of contacting their advisor.  At times, some even avoid opening their university email account, fearing that their professor might have written to tell them to forget the project. 
 Even though Joseph Berger, in his NYTimes story “ON EDUCATION; Exploring Ways to Shorten the Ascent to a Ph.D.,” asserts that “universities . . .  [are] demanding that faculty advisers meet regularly with protégés,”  he doesn’t say precisely which universities are making this demand.  My dissertation coaching clients are unaware of any such demands. They haven’t been contacted by their advisors.

So if a student shouldn’t expect a phone call or email from an advisor, then what?  Continue to hide out?  Living in dread is no way to live.

Try this:
a. First, state what the belief is that is allowing you to hide out.
b. Second, take a hard look at that belief or assumption.  What evidence can you muster to disprove or reject that belief?
c. Third, come up with an action that you could take (will take?) that will let you step over that belief.

Here are some beliefs I’ve heard from my dissertation coaching clients and some potential follow-up steps:
Belief #1:  If I write my advisor to say that I’m working again, he/she will be nasty.  His/her sarcasm will just crush me.
 Action:  Ask yourself what’s the worst thing he/she will say?  The best?  What is he/she likely to say?  You know the words he/she will say.  You’ve heard them before.  Write them down.  Assume his/her voice and read the words aloud.  Say them aloud several times until the words of ridicule sound ridiculous.  Make it funny.  Laugh! Let it go.

Belief #2:  If I send a chapter or a few pages to my advisor, he/she will hold onto them and won’t return the pages with any comments. And then I’m stuck–all I can do is wait.  I don’t want to feel any more helpless than I already do.
 Action:  You aren’t helpless.  Ask for an appointment (by phone or in person) at the same time that you send the text to your advisor. You can help make this process easier for your advisor and at the same time give yourself more control over the process.   Give a choice of two specific times that would be good for you and ask to hear back by a certain time.  Specific requests are more likely to elicit a response.

Belief #3:  Even if I make an appointment, my advisor probably won’t look at the text ahead of time.  An appointment or a telephone conference is a waste of time, and afterwards, I feel just as lost as ever.  I don’t know where to go next.
 Action:  You have options.  Email and re-send the text shortly before your appointment, highlighting key passages with specific, pivotal questions.  You know your work best–give your advisor a perch from which to view your work.

Belief #4:  My advisor never seems to have any comments, even when we have an appointment.  I have no control over what happens.
 Action: What if you act as if you do have some control?  Come with specific questions about the text.  Don’t hide.  Don’t waste the opportunity.  Always take notes, or, if all parties agree, tape the conversation.  Show a willingness to do whatever it takes to get through this process, and show respect for the time your advisor has carved out for you by having an agenda.  Make it easy for your advisor to help you.

What are you waiting for?

Your university probably hasn’t made any demands that your advisor meet regularly with you.

Your advisor is not going to email you to say that you are in his/her thoughts or to invite you over for dinner.

Advisors may not have the best interpersonal skills, but they probably aren’t plotting to do you in. 

Stop Catastrophizing—you’re busy; your advisor is busy.

Why not shoot off an email tonight to your advisor?  Ask for what you want.
Please share your strategies on how you sidestep the urge to catastrophize and get on with your dissertation.  When your Lizard Brain is in overdrive, what do you do?  I would love to hear from you.

At my website (www.nwcoaching.com), I offer a free newsletter with helpful tips.  I invite you to sign up for it and let me know what you think.

Until next time,


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

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So perseverance isn’t your strong suit?

But finishing the project no matter what is your goal?

When playing cards, what can you do if you can’t follow suit?  You play your trump card!  So what is your trump card, your ace in the hole?

Even if perseverance is low on your list of strengths, you can finish what you start by using one of your other strengths as leverage to achieve perseverance.

One strength usually found in academics’ top five strengths is “Love of Learning.”

Consider how you could use love of learning to help you finish your work, even if you find it difficult to keep going.  Ask yourself (yes—say this aloud!), “What is it that drew me to this project?” and help yourself, even when you’re weary, to find that nugget that still attracts you.

Finally, when the going gets tough, remember that you have one other trick up your sleeve. If you have played all your love-of-learning cards, then even if perseverance is not your suit, don’t show your hand.

Rather, act as if perseverance is your top strength.  Practice and see what it would be like if it were #1 for you.  Sometimes merely the acting as if  will make all the difference and may allow you to stick with your work a while longer.

Or to continue our card-playing analogy, you will come up trumps.

Remember, you can take the Signature Strengths Inventory at

If you think you lack perseverance, what strength could you draw on to help you keep going?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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