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Are your children home on vacation from school?  And you’re trying to keep an eye on your children, as well as make headway on your writing project?

How’s that working for you?

During the school year, most academics teach and try to write.  Both teaching and writing are critical for an academic’s success and are important parts of the academic’s identity.  The plan is that once summer comes, the writing takes priority.

But no matter how carefully and hopefully they have planned, more than one of my dissertation and writing clients say that once summer comes, they lose their work identity.

It’s difficult to deal with the reality of summer. You go into summer with those unspoken hopes and expectations that you’ll make significant progress toward your writing goals. Then before long you realize that it isn’t going to be the way you think it’s supposed to be.

You had thought that with no papers to grade or classes to prepare for that you’d have long, quiet afternoons, or at least a couple of hours a day with no interruptions, when you could read and, more importantly, write.

And the writing is not happening.

It’s emotionally stressful, enough so that you may find yourself waking in the night and having trouble turning off your mind and getting back to sleep.

And even though you want to be writing, you get such comments from other parents as, “Oh, you’re not working this summer?”  Grrr…if only I could work, you think.

You need to write, and not only during those 15 minutes when you can hide in the bathroom or duck downstairs to the basement.

For years, I juggled teaching during the school year with being at home during the summer.

My fantasy was to have a summer cottage in Maine where I could go to write in the summer. 

I was never going to have a real cottage for writing, but I needed to make a space for writing—a cottage, if you will—inside my house.

My kids were old enough to be on their own in the house for an hour or two, and so I put a sign on my office door that read “Mom is in Maine.”

My kids thought it was great, or at least some of the time they thought it was o.k. And my “Mom is in Maine” sign wasn’t as forbidding as the “Keep Out” sign that they occasionally used on their bedroom doors.

For the most part, my sign worked. I had to keep an ear open for any sort of hubbub, or alternately, when it was too quiet.  But I made sure that my kids knew that this was not a one-time event, and that I expected everybody to work with me on this.

At least my daughter gave me her stamp of approval, including drawing pictures of light houses for me.

It wasn’t a solution, but it helped.

A client told me that she, too, had to be creative in order to write at home.  The door to her home office is framed in clear glass. Her preschool-aged children would routinely outrun the family au pair and bolt for the office door, where they would peer through the glass in an attempt to see their mother. To block their view, their mother put black curtains over the glass. Kids are smart, and so they weren’t completely deceived.  Occasionally, she would still hear their little voices, outside her door, saying, “I think she’s in there.”

All of these attempts to find a space and time to write remind me of a client’s great a-ha moment:  “I found I could not write my dissertation at the dining room table.”

Have you decided that you can’t write your dissertation at the dining room table?  Where do you go?  How do you juggle writing and taking care of your kids?

I’d love to hear from you.

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

www.smarttipsforwriters.com

www.dissertationbootcamp.net

www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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A young patriot salutes heroes at the 2009 Nat...

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I have coached many people who write dissertations while juggling the demands of family life. It’s difficult to juggle the daily demands, but to give up a holiday with one’s family is a particularly hard choice to make.

As the Memorial Day holiday approaches here in the U.S., I am thinking back to a Memorial Day weekend years ago when I had to choose my dissertation over the holiday weekend with my family. Now it seems as if it was a small sacrifice, and completing a dissertation definitely requires some sacrifices. But at the time, I felt that the dissertation process had demanded too much from me one too many times.

In my Washington, DC suburb, Memorial Day has always been a day for ritual and fun. The day begins with a 3K Fun Run. The day proceeds with a fair and a parade and back-yard picnics. Except for the one year when I had to spend the whole weekend once again revising the intro to my diss.

My defense was approaching. I thought I was on track since the full draft of the dissertation had been revised many times and had finally been approved. Only the intro needed one more rewrite, and I had done that, following the straightforward suggestions for revising from my advisor. I then sent the rewritten Intro off to him.

Just before Memorial Day, he returned the revision to me with a note saying that I should take out all of the newly added pages and re-work the whole chapter.

I was dumbfounded.  I knew better, but because the deadline was so close I wrote to him, saying that I had done what he had told me to do. His only comment was that he didn’t want to be told what he had said.

I hoped that I hadn’t alienated him. And I knew that I had to grind out the new rewrite immediately. I gave up my holiday weekend with my family and sat in front of my computer for the holiday.

As I look back on that weekend now, years later, I have changed my perspective on several counts.

I remember now that when I was revising the Intro, my advisor’s suggestions struck me as a bit off the mark. But I didn’t raise any questions or concerns with him. Of course, the advisor is always right, but it would have been smart to at least give voice to my concerns.

It strikes me now that perhaps I was even a bit lazy in adopting his comments without discussing my concerns with him or without thinking of an alternative approach.

As for that Memorial Day weekend, I don’t think that my kids felt neglected. I did miss out on some fun, but I bounced back. It wasn’t the end of the world. And I think my kids learned something about how much work it takes to finish big projects.

What I had to do was draw on my resolve and my mental toughness to get through this challenge.

Over the long period of time that I worked on the whole dissertation, I learned the value of building perseverance, resilience, and courage. Actually, learning to rely on those strengths may be the life-changing and lasting benefit for me of writing the dissertation.

If you, too, are finding yourself drawing on and building your mental toughness and resolve as you write your dissertation, I salute you. Only in such a long-term, large project do you find such an opportunity.

Warm regards,

Nancy
Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach
www.nancywhichard.com
nancy@nancywhichard.com

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Recently a dissertation coaching client said she had made a choice which would give her more time.  That choice reminded me of Found Money. 

 

You know what Found Money is, right? 

 

 

Here’s an example:

 

I bought a pack of those special money envelopes that are in the card racks at Christmastime, and about 10 days before Christmas, I sent my nieces and nephews cash as their gift.

 

I had two or three envelopes left over, so I put them in a drawer.

 

Closer to Christmas, I took out those extra envelopes and, guess what, there was cash in one of them.  Yikes, could I have sent an empty envelope to one of the kids? How else would I have an envelope with money in it?  Favorite Aunt Status is at stake. 

 

After a hurried call to the mothers, I was reassured that no, all children had received cash from me.

 

I felt a little silly that somehow I had put money in an extra envelope. 

 

But the good news was that now I had Found Money.

 

 

 

As someone said to me, “Is there anything better than Found Money, especially at Christmastime?” 

 

 

 

Recently what reminded me of Found Money was that my client said she now she had more time.

 

How is the Found Time showing up in your writing schedule, I asked.  Hmm, not sure, she said. 

 

At Christmas I had spent the Found Money, even though it wasn’t a fortune, on something that I knew no one else would get me.  Something that I could remember that I had done for myself –sort of like buying my own Cupcake.  And it had come from the Found Money that I could have stuck in my billfold and frittered away on groceries. 

 And so here’s my take on Found Time and saying no: 

·        Once you say NO to something, you will immediately have more time. 

·        When you get more time, it feels like an unexpected gift that you can use any way you want to.

 

Something of value has opened up to you—how do you want to spend it?

·        Spend that Found Time where it will make a big impact.

·        Work on your dissertation during the very time that you would have been doing that old commitment.

·        Smile when you think how close you came to frittering away Found Time.

 

More time gives you hope, and hope gives you momentum and drive.  

 

Found Time or Found Money—which is of more value to you?  I’m guessing Found Time.  Use it or lose it.

 

Happy 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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What works 2010

Image by iriss.org.uk via Flickr

“Hey, where’s the beef?” yells the cranky, elderly woman at a fast food counter.  We see an enormous bun being poked at by two less cranky women.  Trying to say something positive, they agree that the bun is big:  “It’s a big fluffy bun. It’s a very big fluffy bun.”  But the all-business, take-no-prisoners woman says, “Hey, where’s the beef.”  And then she says the obvious, “I don’t think there’s anybody back there.”

 The “where’s-the-beef” line from a 1984 Wendy’s Fast Food commercial has become synonymous with something that’s insubstantial and inflated.

Too often our goals are little more than a big, fluffy bunch of words, as insubstantial as white bread.

If your goal for 2011 is “I will finish my dissertation,” what will add some substance, some beef, if you will, to that goal?

As that silly song from the mid- ‘60s by Burt Bacharach says, “Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying, planning and dreaming” aren’t enough. 

To add substance to your goal of “finish my dissertation in 2011,” let’s look at your “Have -Done” list for 2010.  We rarely give ourselves credit for what we’ve done. 

Typically, we shake a finger at ourselves about all that went wrong this past year. That approach reminds me of stern Suze Orman on PBS who frowns at me and says she’s my girlfriend, but she really wants to scold me about my bad money management: “I want to talk to you about the mistakes you made last year,” she says.

We need evidence that we can do this work in 2011. What are the successes from 2010 that you can build on in 2011?

An Accomplishments List definitely motivates and adds momentum toward your 2011 goal.

What evidence can you pull up for some success in the areas of perseverance, resilience, and accountability?

What meetings did you request with your advisor?  What specific help did you request from your advisor? What additional resources did you find?  Where do you want to look for resources in 2011?

What did you have to say no to in order to get work done?

What deadlines did you meet? What was instrumental in your meeting those deadlines?  What do you want to tweak?

How did you manage your ambivalence?  Your resistance?  Your perfectionism?

And how much text did you produce?

Each page of writing is a success.

Each writing session in which you managed your anxiety or your resistance or your perfectionism was a success. And here you are, back at it, stronger and wiser.

Make the path to success more certain this year.  Have as goals the specific patterns and processes that worked last year, and ramp them up.   

Those are worthwhile, robust, substantive goals.  Write them down.

I’d love to see your robust goals in writing and also in action.

All good wishes for a productive 2011,

Nancy

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

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A child watching TV.

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A dissertation coaching client said that she stopped watching TV and picked up her writing pace in order to meet a deadline.  Now that she has met the deadline, she worries that she will be sucked into watching all of the TV shows that she recorded during her heavy-duty period of writing.

Do you record TV shows?  It’s just too easy, isn’t it?  I doubt that I’ll ever catch up on all of the International House Hunter shows that I seem to record every day. Occasionally I wonder how on earth all of the shows pile up, foolishly forgetting that I clicked on “record series.” And there must be at least 3 International House Hunter shows a day!

My client also worries that not only will she binge on watching all of the TV recordings waiting for her, but from experience she knows of the torpor that will hit her once she starts watching the hours of  TV.  It will be hard to get back into her writing routine. Digital stress strikes again!

Recently I stayed in a small town at an absent relative’s house (no I wasn’t a home invader–it was by invitation!).  This was a house with no TV and no internet access.  I was looking forward to seeing how the absence of TV and lack of email would affect me.

It was a little eerie, but good.  Many clients say that it’s hard for them to get into flow while writing and sometimes they find it hard to jump into a long book that is required reading for their topic.  Experience tells me that if you remove yourself from the easy temptation of  TV and the internet, flow will be much easier to accomplish than you might imagine.

With no TV and internet, I moved quickly into a reading and writing routine.   I gave no energy to avoiding writing and no energy to avoiding TV. And I wasn’t recording TV shows for later.  It was a win-win-win.

Often, clients who have a day job say that one change they are making in their lives as dissertation writers is to leave their blackberries at work.  I feel the same way about checking office email at home.  Too often employers expect the unreasonable–that is, that you are online, plugged in, no matter what time of day, no matter where you are.

If you can leave the blackberry and the office email at the office, cut way back on what you are recording on TV, and limit when you will check home email to an absolute minimum, you may be surprised how easily you, too, can move into flow. 

And you can control digital stress.

Do you have some strategies on how to avoid digital stress and the temptations of  TV and email?  I would love to hear from you.

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

nancy@nancywhichard.com

www.nancywhichard.com

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IMG_8927

Image by freizeitforum-aachen.de via Flickr

Are you one of the millions of instructors or professors back in the classroom this September?

Are you also trying to meet a writing goal?

So how are you doing?  Keeping all of the balls in the air?

Maybe you’re like some of my coaching clients who have returned to their fall teaching jobs and feel thrown back on their heels, staring at all that is facing them.

Are you trying to find time just to do the required stuff—preparing for class, grading, meeting with students? How do you fit in those unexpected duties?  More students in your classes than you had expected?  Maybe you have that student with the special problem that you feel compelled to take on.  Or the lab that wasn’t prepared. Or the team-teaching that seems to lack a team.

Or maybe you just forgot over the summer how hard it is to teach and to do anything else at all.

And what is the first thing that you let go?  We all know the secret word—Writing!

This year, how can you think of yourself as a writer?  Would that be a paradigm shift for you?  A whole new reality?

Here’s a challenge for you–Make this the year to see your day through the lens of you as a writer.

That doesn’t mean that you spend more time writing than doing anything else in your day.  Nor does it mean that you spend the same amount of time writing every day or (and I’ll go to hell for saying this) that you even write every day.

One client started her teaching year with a plan.

Even though she has a heavy teaching load, she plans to work on her dissertation early each morning. Her teaching day starts mid-morning, and so she will give the first 2 hours of her day to her writing.  She needs a goal, and that’s her goal.  She will also oversee how well she is doing to meet her goal, what she can do to manage that goal, and whether the goal needs to be tweaked.

Another of my writing clients might seem to you that time-wise she’s not focusing on her writing.  But she, too, has a plan.

She also has a heavy teaching schedule and a killer commute, plus a family.  She is at a different place in her career as an academic writer than my first client.  She has finished her dissertation and is transforming her research into journal articles.  She is doing her best to maintain the writing habits she learned while writing her dissertation.  She can’t write first thing because she has a young daughter to mother, a dog to walk, and that killer commute, but she also had all of that when she was writing her dissertation.   What she learned while she was writing her dissertation was to use small chunks of time for her writing.

She never turned up her nose at writing 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there during a day.  They add up!

While she sets as a goal smaller time units than my first client, she is a stickler for meeting her goal.  Some weeks she sets as a goal 2 hours for the week.  She also sets as goals some time for exercise, and, like me, she finds her mind turning to her writing as she exercises.  She anticipates getting in a fast 20- minutes of writing as soon as she finishes running or swimming or walking.

If you plan to write 2 hours each week,  surprise yourself by being amazingly productive during those two hours. My client is proof of what can be accomplished by that type of schedule.  She has had two articles accepted for publication this year.

If you teach, the demands on you are enormous, but put writing into your schedule.  It isn’t how much time, but how dedicated you are to keeping the time that you say you will write.

See yourself as a writer, and then be that writer.  Make that paradigm shift.

Do what you say you’re going to do.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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It can’t be  a coincidence that over the last couple of weeks many of my dissertation and writing coaching clients have been dealing with overwhelm.  For many, fatigue is now catching up with them and exacerbating their stress level.

When I asked a client what she would like to do, she said, “Work in my yard.”  But when I suggested she take an hour to do that, she said, “I can’t!  I can’t take time off.”

With a schedule that is packed not only with writing deadlines, but also for some, with end-of-the semester deadlines, stress becomes epidemic.

All of that grading that was on to-do lists but wasn’t done is now sounding an alarm.  Grades are due in just a few weeks.

Many writers are worried about getting a draft finished and also holding onto committee members who may disappear into the mist come the end of the semester.

At this time of the year, do you ever feel as if you’re being pecked to death by ducks?

Here are some tips for putting one foot in front of the other that my dissertation clients and writing clients want to share:

1.  Keep a daily priority focus.

2. Stay in the present–Keep from being way too focused on the future. 

3. One thing at a time–As you work, focus on accomplishing one thing at a time

4. Watch for triggers that make you feel you need or want to be perfect or right.

5.  Give yourself a moment every day to think about what is good in your life.

6.  Acknowledge your wins–As you remind yourself of your daily priority focus, also acknowledge what you have done.

It’s important for your momentum and for your mental health to do what you said you’d do and also to acknowledge what you’ve done.

Deep breath!

Nancy
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com
www.smarttipsforwriters.com

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