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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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Back to Work

Image by R. Motti via Flickr

How often do you find, while at your day job, that you suddenly have a really good thought about your dissertation or a reference that you want to check further when you have some time?   How do you capture that thought?  Do you send yourself an email?  Do you just hope you’ll remember?  Or do you have a better strategy?

I go back and forth from one office to another, from one computer to another, both away from home and while at home.  No matter where I am, I want to know that I can capture an idea that occurs to me or track something that I want to read later. I want to be sure that I’ll have access to that idea and to that article when I am at a different computer.   

To have the same note or file in all locations, I send emails to myself.

Sending several notes to the same location (even if it’s me at both ends, sending and receiving) seems to raise suspicions that I’m a spammer. But even more of a problem is that I’m creating and keeping too much in my email files in all locations.

I have always known that putting so much reliance on email and on email files was risky, but since email and e-newsletters and blogs are easily accessed I tend to let the number of emails mount, and suffice to say, I am not managing the size of my email.

In Paula Tarnapol Whitacre‘s Ease in Writing, K.J. McCorry says that “email is a temporary form. . . . Any data considered permanent or needed in the future (1 to 2 years out) should be saved on the hard drive.”

While McCorry directs this advice at the workplace, the advice is also appropriate for professional and academic writers concerned with capturing and saving critical work.

If I shouldn’t file my ideas long-term in email and if I should refrain from sending duplicate emails back and forth among my computers, what should I put in place that would fit my situation?

I am looking for efficient ways to:

1. Save ideas and reminders

2. Keep track of things I want to read later

3. Be able to work on a file from multiple locations

I like what I see in the online Evernote system where I can easily create an account that “allows Evernote to identify [my] notes and make them available to [me] anywhere.”  Yeah, available to me anywhere!  Furthermore, Evernote will keep my notes “up to date across all of [my] computers, phones, devices and the Web.”  Triple yeah, across all of my computers…!!!

The learning curve for this system seems manageable.  However, as one would expect, the free version has only so much space.

I’m still comparing systems to find the one which best lets me work on a file from multiple locations.

If you have used Evernote or a similar system, such as Instapaper, what has been your experience?  How are you dealing with the need to capture your ideas and save online information?  I would love to hear from you.

Watch your email for the February edition of my newsletter—Smart Tips for Writers. If you aren’t receiving my newsletter, you can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).

Here’s to making it easier to capture our ideas and notes online and to  work on a file from multiple locations.

Best to you,

Nancy

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

www.usingyourstrengths.com

www.smarttipsforwriters.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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“The idea for this post hit me today when I was at the gym, sweating profusely,” writes Larry Brooks in a blog post called “Blood, Sweat and Words: How Badly Do You Want This?”

As I read his guest post on the blog “Write To Done,” I was reminded once again with how often we hear about the connection between mind and body.

Brooks continues, “There’s something about taking yourself to the wall, to the point of the sweet pain that signals you’ve given it everything. Kinesiologists will tell you that’s an endorphin high. Nothing but bio-chemicals kicking in. Funny thing about bio-chemicals, though: they can take you to places you wouldn’t go otherwise.”

“I realized that I have, on occasion, experienced that same exhilarating high about my writing. And then, between sets on a machine inspired by something out of a medieval dungeon, it hit me: I don’t do that enough. I couldn’t wait to get home and start writing this post,” Brooks writes.

A feeling similar to what Brooks describes struck me this morning, though I wasn’t feeling the “sweet pain” Brooks mentions nor was I in anything remotely related to a dungeon.  In my aerobics class, moving to the rhythm of such music as the great ‘70s hit “I Will Survive,” I once again found myself in a moment when my mind was on its own.  With no prompting, no worrying, I was suddenly thinking through a bit of writing I had been wrestling with. 

This afternoon I asked a dissertation coaching client if she could recall a time when ideas about her writing had come to her with no bidding, no prodding when she was exercising or, perhaps, taking a walk.  In a slightly surprised voice, she said, “I’ve never thought about that.”  Then she said, “But it’s hard to write when I’m in a grumpy mood.”

Award-winning Irish novelist Michael Collins combines exercise and writing in a spectacular way.  A serious runner, he runs races in mountains, hills, and the desert.  When he trains, he always brings along a pencil and paper and will stop to write down a few words that will inspire him when he’s writing and resting later that day.  He says that starting to write a book in his mind while he is running “has always been the most natural process.”  Having the “release of endorphins [as he runs] frees up ideas.”

Almost any kind of exercise will elevate your mood and create the perfect circumstance for you to become aware of ideas about your writing that your mind has been working on.

If you can go straight to your computer or desk after exercising, you will very likely find that writing will be easier for you then than at other times during your day. And it is always easier to write when you’re in a good mood and when you’ve been thinking about ideas for your writing.

Have you ever had a breakthrough in your writing as a result of exercising?   I’d love to hear from you. 

Watch your email for the February edition of my newsletter—Smart Tips for Writers. If you aren’t receiving my newsletter, you can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

www.usingyourstrengths.com

www.smarttipsforwriters.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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You’re frustrated that it is taking so much time to get to the dissertation finish line. 

Do you minimize your efforts and withhold any sense of accomplishment for the work you’ve done to get this far?  Each week you look back and dismiss your work “Is that all? Well, really, that wasn’t good enough.”

 

Is it all or nothing for you?

Here are three approaches that may be of help in beating back that all-or-nothing mentality

 

Practice an old virtue

Are you impatient with how long it takes to accomplish a significant piece of writing?  Impatient with how long it takes to do something big? 

With never enough time, we may feel that patience is a luxury that we can’t indulge in. We whip ourselves to work faster and to produce more, without acknowledging ourselves for the work we have accomplished.  Practicing patience encourages us to work steadily and moderately, rather than throwing ourselves into a wildly exhausting, desperation move to meet a deadline.  

To remind yourself that patience has a place in your life as a writer, try something that might remind you of your mother.  Think of something that your mother would encourage you to do on a regular basis, something you would resist, but when you finally did it, you would grudgingly see the benefit.  I’m thinking of something small that you could try, like improving your posture.  Every so often, say, once an hour, throw your shoulders back, raise your head, and take a deep breath.  Let that action serve as a reminder of the beneficial results of doing something patiently, consistently.

Slow and steady.  Little by little.  Patience.

 

Add a new strategy

Set a 24-hour goal for yourself. Is it hard to value the small steps you are making and what’s possible in the short-term?  Put your focus on a manageable goal for each day, rather than the goal for week’s end.

Ask yourself what writing goal you can do within the next 24 hours.  What one thing?  Whether you have four hours a day or one hour a week to accomplish the goal, think about what is reasonable for you to complete in the amount of time that you have.  Write your 24-hour goal in a very conspicuous place, such as on your white board.  

Then the next day ask the same question of yourself — what one thing can I do within the next 24 hours?

Be sure to keep a record of your success in meeting the 24-hour goal.

 

Put a better routine in place

Recently I received an inquiry about my two-week Boot Camp that I offer writers.  The person asked how people who work and have families can find time to do anything more. 

Finding time to write during the week when you have so many demands is tricky, but not impossible.  Boot Camp is adapted to each person’s needs.  What many writers want is a retreat, an oasis in her day which she can dedicate to her writing project, and someone to whom she can be accountable on a daily basis.  Whether we call the time a Writer’s Retreat or Boot Camp, the critical elements are reasonable, daily writing goals and a moderate, consistent writing routine.

What might help you to work moderately and consistently?

I’d love to hear from you. 

Watch your email for the February edition of my newsletter—Smart Tips for Writers. If you aren’t receiving my newsletter, you can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).

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

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.  ~John Quincy Adams

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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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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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Cat mosaic on house façade, Brussels, Belgium,...

Image by historic.brussels via Flickr

Can’t concentrate?  Having trouble getting into flow with your writing?  Get a cat!

Advice to writers can come from the most interesting places.  An unexpected, but most entertaining source of advice is A Far Cry from Kensington, a novel by British writer Muriel Spark

A Far Cry takes place in 1954 London.  Mrs. Hawkins, the narrator, has a job in publishing.  And yes, it is she who offers the acutely insightful advice that if you can’t concentrate, get a cat.

In a hilarious dinner party scene, Mrs. Hawkins is seated by a red-faced, watery-eyed Brigadier, who, in response to her question about his having had an interesting life, replies, “Could write a book.”  He hasn’t because he hasn’t been able to concentrate.  

Mrs. Hawkins tells him that to concentrate, “you need a cat”:

Alone with a cat in the room where you work . . . the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp.  .  .  .  The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding.  And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. 

Spark is saying in her engaging style that to regain the self-discipline and focus you need to write, let go of the negative, chattering voices in your mind and all of the endless responsibilities calling to you. 

Occasionally my dissertation coaching clients speak of the quieting influence of their pets.

Unfortunately, in Spark’s novel, the narrator informs us that  the Brigadier’s writing fails.  Mrs. Hawkins says,  “I had advised him only that a cat helps concentration, not that the cat writes the book for you.”

Mrs. Hawkins freely gives her wise advice to other would-be writers. She tells writers to have in mind a particular person who will be your reader.  

What you have to say will come out more spontaneously and honestly than if you are thinking of numerous readers.  Before starting . . .  rehearse in your mind what you are going to tell . . . . But don’t rehearse too much, the story will develop as you go along.

Working toward discovery and trusting a process –both in life and in writing– are strong themes in the book.

Life isn’t fair, of course, and trusting the process does not always lead to exemplary writing or to published works, as evidenced by the novel’s depiction of many questionable publishers and of less than stellar writers who do get published.

But we can take pleasure in Muriel Spark’s esteem for honest, hard-working writers, as well as her undisguised contempt for the undeserving who sometimes receive  their just rewards.

As a writer, have you found good or interesting advice from an unexpected source?  I would love to hear from you.

All good wishes,

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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