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Archive for the ‘boot camp’ Category

At this point in the summer, writers face a decision. How will you make the most of the time left this summer?

And what happens when you ask yourself that question? Do you check your calendar and start to feel a bit of panic when you see that you’re overbooked with meetings and trips and projects, not to mention the promises you have made to your family?  Do you sink into a lethargic trance when you realize what little time you have for yourself?

Or—and this is the best choice— do you decide that your writing will be a priority, starting now, and you pat yourself on the back for thinking to check your calendar?

Boot Camp—a writer’s space

After my midsummer vacation, I started receiving many emails from people about Boot Camp, which is one of the coaching services I offer writers.

It is a short-term coaching service and comes with day-by-day support, and a gentle push for the writer to move forward at a faster clip than you might ordinarily produce text.  Boot Camp can definitely help you to make the most of the time available.

Work closely with your dissertation coach

During Boot Camp, I work closely with you. Part of your commitment is to keep a daily log/journal confirming that you did or did not meet your original goal for the day and how you dealt with a need to change your goal, as well as focusing on the coming day– when you will write, where you will write, and what will be your specific writing goals.  I ask that you share that log/journal post in an email to me.

A benefit of Boot Camp is that you draw boundaries around you and your work. You give yourself permission to pull away from the hub-bub of your usual life as much as you can. You shelter yourself from the pressures and distractions that had been partly responsible for your not writing up til now.

Insights and practices

In Boot Camp, clients notice what works well for them, and they adopt new strategies for greater productivity.

My clients tell me of the many insights and practices that have helped them and that they continue to use, such as:

–Don’t think too far ahead; work with what is coming up for you.

–Take time off to play, go for a walk, leave your work behind, and let your mind wander.

–Be patient with yourself and don’t rush to label a work session or an idea as a failure; you may surprise yourself after going for a walk or taking a nap how your so-called failure now yields something interesting.

–Give yourself permission to come up with new ideas.  Be open to a-ha moments.

–Don’t expect this to be easy.

–Don’t be afraid of a little discomfort.

Stick with the process

Boot Camp keeps you in the process. It helps you to stick with the work during the down days when you cannot see what you are doing or where this is going. Then, often, it takes you to a surprising place, and you see yourself rise from the uncertainty that only a short time before had made you think your project was hopeless.

And what a joy that is to see, both for the writer and for me!

Boot Camp could be the very best part of your summer.

Good summer writing days,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard. com

 

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Do you think if only I had nothing to distract me, nothing else to do but write, no choice but to write… then I’d write?

How about flying somewhere?

Whenever a dissertation coaching client tells me she’s flying somewhere—on a vacation or a business trip or to see her mom—I sit up a little straighter.

This is great, I say to myself.

While I wonder about the destination, my burning question is, “What will you do on the plane?”

The part leading up to flying isn’t fun. I’ll give you that, but flying gives you the opportunity to unplug, to see only what is immediately in front of you, and to feel almost invisible.

You have the great opportunity of bringing onboard only what you can work with for a specific amount of time.

It’s unlikely that anyone will bother you. You plan for no distractions.

You really could get something done in this nice chunk of time, when there’s nothing else to do but write.

Sort of like Dissertation Boot Camp? Or not?

Increasingly, universities are offering boot camps for graduate students to write their dissertations. Does the boot camp at your university give you the invisibility, no-distraction feel of a 4-hour flight?

In the past I’ve praised on-campus boot camps which have presentations or speakers, but I’ve been told by my clients that often the presentations aren’t all that helpful, even a waste of time.

I’ve heard about less than scintillating presentations or advertised programs being scuttled with last-minute stand-ins offering off-the-cuff remarks.

If a boot camp or a dissertation workshop has become a place where there’s a speaker who talks vaguely about writing rather than a place for writing, the organizers may want to re-think what they’re offering.

The dissertators that I talk with would like to add some input: Could boot camps advertise who will be speaking and the topic and length of the talk? Could ABD’s be asked in advance for questions on a topic so that the speaker will gear the talk toward what the audience needs?

Most of all, dissertators crave a place where they can write without interruption, a super-controlled environment: No chatting, no rustling about, no crackly bags or candy wrappers, no noise from a hallway or a bad AC. A place for writers to write that allows them to let go of internal obstacles and the myriad distractions in their usual writing settings.

I pattern the virtual Boot Camp that I offer on the features my clients tell me that they most appreciate about the workshops/boot camps they’ve attended. When they register for my Dissertation Boot Camp, dissertators know they are committing to do serious, sustained daily writing and that they will be accountable for doing what they say they will do.

The dissertator provides commitment, and I provide accountability. For example, I ask the boot camp client for a daily email after each writing session, outlining how the day’s goal was met and specifics on the next day’s goal.

Commitment/Accountability at some on-campus boot camps involve a charge of some kind or at least a deposit (like the one you give at a rental house to cover property damage). At some boot camps, the deposit check is shredded if the dissertator attends each writing session. Showing up is essential, and shredding a deposit check certainly underscores the importance of showing up.

A boot camp or dissertation workshop at its best provides an unplugged, quiet setting, conducive to a dissertator’s producing text. And the option of attending presentations that are worth the dissertator’s time.

What has been your experience with boot camps? What would make a boot camp really worth your while?

Here’s to producing text!

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
www.smarttipsforwriters.com
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
http://www.nancywhichard.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Getting more sleep is high on the Wish List, if not the To-Do list, of most dissertation writers.

And so it is with me.

I always mean to go to bed earlier than I do, and I have all sorts of reasons for what keeps me up, some good, others not so much.

As I argued in “Sleep on It,” a tired brain doesn’t give you your best ideas, so why not go to bed and let your brain expand, develop, play with what you have given it? Your writing process needs that down time so that your brain can add its unique perspective to what you’ve just written.

I may watch BBC World News at midnight, and I may make some notes to think about in the morning, but I don’t trust my critical thinking and judgment after a certain hour. 

To supplement my nightly sleep I would love to take a short nap at 4 pm, but the late afternoon time isn’t my own. 

However, maybe I should take back that time. 

The National Sleep Foundation advocates a 20- minute nap in the mid-morning or mid- afternoon to sharpen focus and productivity. And it’s important to limit the nap to 20 to 30 minutes. 

And if you need additional reasons to nap, a mid-day nap also helps your metabolism (did I hear “slim”?).

If you receive the wonderful and free daily INSIDE HIGHER ED   and/or TOMORROW’S PROFESSOR newsletter, you saw “Turn Your Zzz’s Into A’s.” 

 In that article, Allie Grasgreen writes about The University of California at Davis’s systematic endeavor to encourage students to nap.  The school sells packets with earplugs and an eye mask and offers a “nap map” for good places to nap.

I swear by my five- minute nap, which I can take just about anywhere (except when I’m driving or talking on the phone, of course), but a 20-minute nap does sound appealing, don’t you think? 

Could you fit in a short mid-afternoon nap to improve your focus and productivity?  There are all sorts of barriers we could bring up, but really, how hard would it be?  And what’s 20 minutes versus improved focus and productivity.  Aren’t they priceless?

My best to you,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Doctoral students who have finished their course work, but not their dissertation have been given the inglorious tag of “All But Dissertation.”  Although many doctoral students proudly add “ABD” to their signature, what those three letters signify is that more work needs to be done. 

For many writers of dissertations, the process drags on and on.  Even though the average time for finishing a degree is less than at any time over the last 20 years, some studies say that the average time-to-degree is 7.7 years.   Actually, in a high percentage of disciplines, a ten-year completion rate is the norm.  Along the way, many ABD’s become discouraged and never finish. 

The percentage of those who “walk away empty-handed” is said to be more than 30 per cent. 

What are the universities doing?

In the past, I’ve thought that graduate schools make little effort to reach out to ABD’s and offer too few opportunities where ABD students could get a toe-hold in their dissertation process.

But in some quarters there have been changes. Recently, Dissertation Boot Camps have blossomed on many university campuses.  Dissertation Boot Camps profit primarily those ABD’s close to campus, but for those who attend, Boot Camps are a boon.

As recently as 3 or 4 years ago, only a handful of universities had a Writer’s Retreat or a Boot Camp. Currently, many schools post notices of Boot Camps and how a student can enroll. Among the many schools offering Boot Camps for ABD’s are Lehigh University, University of Delaware, Claremont Graduate University, and West Virginia University. 

What do Boot Camps Offer?

Most Boot Camps offer a day or a weekend of distraction-free writing time.  And just that one day or two days or writing time away from your usual demands and in the company of other writers can allow you to mentally retool and to produce text.

Some Boot Camps offer workshops as well as writing time.

The Writing Center at The Claremont Graduate University offers not only a Boot Camp, but a community. Posted on the CGU Writing Center’s website/blog are schedules for the semester’s Boot Camp and for a series of workshops geared toward writing the dissertation.  

At some schools, Boot Camp is a week in length.

If you are a PhD candidate in Humanities or Social Science at West Virginia University, you may have hit the jackpot!  The WVU Writing Center offers a Boot Camp from May 9 thru May 13.  It meets from 10 am to 4 pm (with an hour off for lunch).  Each of the 5 days has unstructured writing time, but each day also includes a presentation. The topics for the daily presentations include goal setting, balancing writing and researching, the proposal, the lit review, and intros/conclusions/abstracts.

This unique Boot Camp also offers workshopping. Workshopping gives you the opportunity to receive feedback from other participants on what you are writing.   

How do I get in?

If you are a Ph.D. candidate at a university sponsoring a Boot Camp, most likely you are eligible, although a few Boot Camps stipulate the field. 

Some Boot Camps have an application process in which, among other topics, students need to address their goals for the Boot Camp or retreat. 

Some ask for a refundable payment of $50. Most are free, though in case of Boot Camps that run for more than a day, you will have the expense of overnight lodging.  Often, the expense is modest.

At least one school has several sessions each academic term, but this is rare.  Clearly those schools which offer several sessions a year serve the greatest number of students.   

One school advertises that past participants can apply for another session.  However, many schools have limited space, and so returning students aren’t encouraged.

I am puzzled by several announcements that I have seen.  For example, in one case, four universities band together to offer a retreat for four participants from each of the four universities.  It would appear that for those four schools a total of only sixteen doctoral students will have the chance for a retreat. 

Other opportunities

Boot Camp is a wonderful opportunity for you to be removed from your everyday distractions and to be able to focus on your writing. Many writers find being around others while they write is helpful.  Occasionally you need the energy and companionship other writers can give you. 

If you’re not on campus, not eligible to take a Boot Camp, or your university doesn’t offer a Boot Camp, what other resources or choices are available to you. 

You can also enroll in my virtual Dissertation Boot Camp.  Do you need accountability?  A little low on hope?  Or how about some help in forming your own writing group?

Watch this space for more information on my Dissertation Boot Camp / Writer’s Retreat.

I would love to hear about your experiences in finding a Boot Camp or participating in one.

Happy distraction-free writing!

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Are you one of the lucky ones with Spring Break in the offing?

Have you been thinking and hoping and waiting for Spring Break?  Finally, you say, I’ll make some headway on my dissertation or book.

Visualize how it will work when you have none of the usual demands that take your time and distract you during each day.

It may be a bit of a challenge to be organized, to guard your time, to find the balance between thinking you have to research this and write that.  Feel a little scary?  Are you starting to put the stressors in place just at the moment when the usual demands may let go?

What would make for a more relaxing and a less stressful writing?
What are the fears?

Just at the time when you see some daylight, here come the fears.  Try this: See yourself as a cartoon character and imagine a little balloon above the character’s head. Put those scary thoughts up in that balloon—the fears that give you that debilitating tightness in your chest. Every time one of those thoughts or pains come up, think of the words or fears and mentally write those words in the balloon.

You’re bigger than those words-in-the-balloon. Put those fears in their place.

Sail on, Silver Girl

A client once said that sometimes “it feels like I’m strong and sailing forward like ‘Sail on, Silver girl; Sail on by’ in that Simon and Garfunkel song,”  but then everything just piles on.

Guard your Spring Break.  People may know where to find you and start making requests that are hard to ignore.

For your Spring Break, find quiet moments, with no stressors where you can sail on.
That Hotel Thing

Maybe it’s time for that Hotel Thing.  If you need solitude and the boundaries that seeming-to be-out-of- town will give you, why not find a good deal for 2 nights in a hotel? Bring snacks, but be sure you can get room service for that evening when you’re in flow, but you’re hungry for something more than Trail Mix.  That’s no time to tramp around, trying to find a cheap eatery.

Bring your dissertation coach’s phone number, but leave all of your other phone numbers at home.

Give yourself an evening to settle in and to tame your surroundings. Feel at ease and comfortable with starting gradually.

Ah, just writing about solitude and co-existing with no other living creature allows me to relax and breathe deeply.
A Retreat with a Friend 

Some writers combine a writer’s retreat with reconnecting with friends or being with like-minded people.  Consider renting a beach house or going to a Bed and Breakfast with a friend or two and setting up compatible writing schedules.  Having someone to walk with before dinner sounds pleasant.

 

Accountability

My dissertation clients primarily hire me to provide accountability.

Why not combine your plans to write during Spring Break with Dissertation Boot Camp/Writer’s Retreat?  Boot Camp, or at least my version, includes 3 coaching calls over two weeks and short, daily check-in’s via email. And if a client is having a week-end retreat at a hotel or in another hidden location, I’m glad to schedule a coaching call on the week-end or at some random time to help get the writing off the ground and keep it going.

Being accountable to one other person who isn’t your friend, your mother, or your spouse can be very important.  No drama, no complications. A similar dynamic is probably at work in organizations like Weight Watchers.

If results count, find a way to include accountability during your Spring Break.

If you have been longing  for some time alone, with no appointments  or  scheduled must-do’s, go ahead and take some time off.  If you are one of the lucky ones with Spring Break, seize the opportunity and dedicate it to your writing.  I would be glad to help you create a productive and relaxed writer’s retreat.

And if Spring Break isn’t in sight, take a long weekend.  Remove yourself from everyday life and give me a call.

I’m on your side. 

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Cover of "Thelma & Louise"

Cover of Thelma & Louise

Perhaps what is true for one of my dissertation clients is also true for you.  She says that sometimes a day will pass, and she hasn’t done any writing.

How do you use your time?  How are you spending your time?

Do those two questions mean the same thing? It seems to me that we all use our time one way or another, but the word spending suggests the value of time and the limited nature of time.

I see in my mind’s eye Louise, in Thelma and Louise,  driving her Thunderbird convertible purposefully down the desert road, mentally calculating what she and Thelma need as she plots their getaway. Thelma is slumped in the passenger’s seat. “How much money do you have,” Louise asks. Thelma distractedly pulls a few bills from her billfold.

Just as Thelma starts to say $60, the wind rips a 20 dollar bill from the passive  Thelma, who aimlessly revises their resources downward to $40.

If you’re like Thelma and Louise, you need to plan ahead a bit more. It’s hard to find more time or money. As Louise says, “We’re going to need more.”

So how can you  determine how you are spending that valuable resource of time and where are you going to find more?

 One of my dissertation coaching clients is planning a course of action that you might also try. 

She has chosen to track how she is using her time each day. Specifically she is going to keep track of each block of 30 minutes in her day by recording her answers to the following:

1. Where am I going?

2. What am I doing?

3. How long does it take?

What are you doing that is so important?

She wants to determine how much of her time is already scheduled. Why does it seem that she is always going somewhere, rushing here or there? Why does the activity or the responsibility take so much time?

Where is the time that I am going to devote to my dissertation?

She will be able to see the chunks of time when she could be writing. She thinks she has time that is available for writing if only she looks closely at how she is living 30-minute segment of her day.

Then what?

That found time will then be scheduled for her dissertation work—written into her calendar– and she will show up for that scheduled writing. 

Try it yourself– Track how you are using your time. 

Use a legal pad or an appointment calendar. How many chunks of time do you have in any given day that you can lay claim to for writing?

Challenge yourself

Write your dissertation in the time you have available.

I’d love to hear from you. What free chunks of time can you find in your day once you actually look for them? Now what will it take to spend those chunks on writing?  Write your dissertation in the time that you have.

Let’s talk!

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net

http://www.usingyourstrengths.com

http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com

nancy@nancywhichard.com

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Pomodoro Timer

Image via Wikipedia

A productive, academic client says that the most important thing she learned while she was writing her dissertation was to use small chunks of time during the day for her writing.  Working on her dissertation in just 30 minutes here and there allowed her to finish the project. 

What have you tried that will help you work in small chunks of time?  You’ve probably heard of using a timer, but have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique?                                                          

The Pomodoro technique has a very interesting approach to making the most of your time.   Check out this video–The Pomodoro Technique Trains Your Brain Away From Distractions

The approach is familiar, but as the title of the video suggests, you must train your brain to focus and to produce during a small, discrete amount of time.  In this video, you’re asked to choose one task and write it down, set your timer for 25 minutes, work for those 25 minutes without stopping, and then when the time is up, reward yourself with a 5-minute break.  This approach allows you to put a boundary around a small amount of time, discourages multi-tasking, and teaches you to value the small chunks of time that too often are ignored as prime writing time. 

Perhaps you’ve tried many different techniques, but you continue to put off your writing.  You need to add some accountability.  Drop me an email.  I’d love to help you keep on course with your writing goals this year.  That’s what I do! 

All good wishes,

Nancy 

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

Nancy @ nancywhichard.com

http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net/

http://www.usingyourstrengths.com/

http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com/

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