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Is your dissertation making  you moody instead of motivated?
It’s possible that you’re too set in your ways.  Do you believe that things have to be a certain way before you start to write?  What time of day have you been telling yourself is the only time you can write?  How do you think you have to approach your dissertation?  Do you have to have the whole chapter thought through before you write? Do you think that your dissertation has to be amazingly spectacular?

Are your beliefs sabotaging you? 
Maybe your attitudes and beliefs toward your writing are obstructive, unhelpful, and disruptive.  If you’ve never tested or questioned the beliefs, they may have hamstrung you, making you too rigid to be productive.

Of course, some of what we’ve been told is definitely true, such as ‘That paper isn’t going to write itself.”  Your mother may have mentioned that to you once in a while during your teen-age years.

Just think, though, how often you read that scientists and researchers have found totally new ways of looking at the way our brain works, the way our body works, and what affects our mood. 

Case in point:  Over the years, doctors have warned breast cancer survivors to be careful of lifting anything heavy.  Many breast cancer survivors have a problem with swollen arms, due to the removal of lymph glands, but, as it turns out, lifting weights would not complicate the swelling.  Now the New England Journal of Medicine reports that weight-lifting could actually help breast cancer survivors by increasing their strength and improving their mood.

And this:  For a long time, people with back trouble, arthritis, joint and nerve damage have routinely been advised to take it easy and avoid exercise.  Studies and experience now show that exercise, particularly water exercise or walking or weight training, is exactly what has helped people with these problems.

And Now This:  Now, according to the New York Times, researchers say that runners who continue to run as they age, even running marathons, are unlikely to suffer degenerating knees.  Runners who stop running more often suffer knee problems.

So your beliefs about how you write or what has to happen in order for you to write could bear scrutiny, too.

Clear the decks?
Have you been waiting to write until you could pare your schedule down to nothing?  Is that because you believe that once your schedule is empty, you can then immerse yourself in writing, producing page after page?  That could happen, but the writing of one of my clients came to a screeching halt this summer once her schedule was cleared.  She found that with no structure, she just shut down.  Come to find out, she wrote best when she had an active, busy life.  Who would have thought it?

Bits, not blocks?
Many clients tell me that they have to have a big block of time in order to get into their writing.  Since they don’t have a big block, they waste the small bits of time they have available.  The clients who have seriously tested whether they could produce text in 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there have become converts to using whatever time is available.  A fifteen-minute writing session each morning along with that first cup of coffee has helped one client move very close to finishing a first draft of her dissertation this summer.  She works full-time and had almost given up on finishing her dissertation until she committed herself to grabbing bits of time, rather than big blocks, and particularly that 15-minute bit early each morning.

Breakthroughs happen when we shake things up.
How about you? Has somebody been giving you bad advice?  What belief about your dissertation could actually be holding you back? Time for a change! 

Courage!

Nancy

P.S.  Do you believe that you don’t need a dissertation coach in order for you to finish your dissertation? How’s that belief working for you? Email me to find out how a dissertation coach can help.

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

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“How would I rate my self-care this week, particularly in the area of exercise?” is one of the questions I ask my clients to think about before we have our coaching call.

Since many of my coaching clients are writers, and many of those writers are trying to find time to write a dissertation, I have a hard sell in trying to convince them to put more time into exercising.  One client says, “I just loathe ‘working out,’ especially since it uses up so much valuable time.”

And another response– “I can’t even imagine how I would enjoy adding regular exercise into my daily routine without hating every minute of it.”

To fight my own resistance to exercise, I plan my weekly schedule around exercise.  Like writing, exercise needs to be a habit.

Here are nine benefits that I have found from exercising:

1. It improves my mood.  After I exercise, it is always easier to start writing because I am in a good mood.

2.  It helps me think. My creativity is unleashed.  Ideas pop into my mind while I’m working out.

3.  It frees my mind to process ideas that I had been working on or issues that I haven’t been actively engaged with.

4.  It dissipates anxiety.  I’m always much calmer and more relaxed once I have exercised.

5.  It vents some of my meanness, allowing me to be the nice person I like to think I am.

6.  I have more energy on a daily basis if I’ve been exercising regularly.

7.  It eats calories and also helps control my eating.  Controlling my emotional eating is a great thing.

8.  It fights Alzheimer’s.  Also, if you’re thin and at one time you were a smoker, you should be exercising /lifting weights to fight osteoporosis.

9.  When I exercise with a group, I fight feelings of loneliness that are all too common with writers (and introverts). 

And here’s a bonus reason:  Rather than taking too much time, exercise actually helps me be a more productive writer.

Are you including exercise in your schedule?  How are you doing that?  I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  Could exercising be one of your goals for August and September?  Email me to help put some specifics around a goal. 

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

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Want to feel calm, even fulfilled, while increasing your productivity?  And meet a dissertation deadline?  Read on.

Recently, I blogged about how a client achieved greater productivity in her writing. 

She and I had collaborated over what steps would most likely yield success.  Sticking to her plan gave her the success she wanted–she met her deadline by increasing her productivity. 

The 4- step plan that she followed could also help you achieve greater productivity and meet a deadline:
1. Write each morning– maximize the morning time
2. Regulate breaks–stick to the schedule
3. Exercise at the end of the day
4. Each evening, journal about the day’s wins and clarify the goals for the following day.

And there’s more!

My client discovered two huge, unexpected added benefits to following through on the plan. 

1.  One terrific benefit was that she felt fulfilled at the end of each day. 

Each morning, she knew what she wanted to accomplish that day.  Each evening, she could tick off what she had accomplished, and surprise, surprise—she felt fulfilled.  No remorse or guilt.  She had done the work she said she would do.  She felt content and happy at the end of the day. Fulfilled.

2.  A second terrific bonus was that even though she was writing to meet a deadline—typically, a high-anxiety time for her– her stress levels were very low. In fact, she felt a great sense of calm

She says, “I was putting in the hours. And I’d think, ‘Oh, I’m not stressed’ and the next day it would occur to me again, ‘I’m not stressed’.”

She had written toward deadlines before and had not expected that this time would be so different. The lack of stress, the feeling of calm while she was writing, and the fulfillment she felt at the end of the day were wonderful gifts. 

But well-deserved gifts.  There was no wishful or magical thinking.  She had a realistic plan, and she followed through each day.

And she is closer to getting on with her life.  Hurray!

I’d love to hear from you—what plan have you put in place that is giving you the success you want plus added benefits?

This week, as a special gift for signing up for my Smart Tips e-newsletter and to underline my hopes that you will soon be getting on with your life, I will give you a 30-minute call. Go to my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my Smart Tips e-newsletter.

Cheers!

Nancy
Your International Dissertation Coach
www.nancywhichard.com

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One of my dissertation clients wanted greater daily productivity as she wrote toward a deadline. To achieve greater productivity, she knew she had some tightening to do.

I asked her on a scale of 1 to 10, how would she rate her current productivity.  7.0, she said.

When I asked what changes would raise the bar to 7.5, she immediately said that she would pay closer attention to the time she spent on breaks.

As we talked about what her daily schedule could look like, a plan emerged.

Here is the plan she put in place:

1.  Maximize the morning by writing early.

2.  Watch the length of breaks. She was aware that she was not being vigilant at controlling the length of her breaks. At times, she was letting them stretch toward an hour long.  She was determined to make a change.  Her plan was to carefully regulate the start and stop time of her breaks.

3. Go to the gym at the end of each day.  She wanted something to look forward to, and she also wanted exercise to be a marker of the boundary between the regular work day and the evening when she would plan her next day of writing.

4.  Journal and plan the next day.  In the evening, she would journal about what she had done that day, and then she would plot her course for the next day, writing down the daily goals and schedule.

At week’s end, she had met her goal.  She was pleased at what she had accomplished.

She said that she stuck to her plan, “got into a good groove,” and built momentum.

And she had gained at least an hour of work time each day by more carefully monitoring her breaks.

But there was an added bonus.

Stay tuned, and I’ll tell you next time what surprised her.

In the meantime, here’s a bonus for you.  As a bonus for signing up for my Smart Tips e-newsletter, I will give you 30 minutes of my time for us to talk about your productivity. Go to my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my Smart Tips e-newsletter.

Until next time,

Nancy
Your Dissertation Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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There are lots of reasons not to write, or so I hear:

1.  Midwinter blahs.  If you live in an area where January and February are gray and cold, it can be hard to push ahead on your writing.

2.  Seasonal fatigue—oh, wait, that was the roadblock in December. 
No longer an excuse!

3.  Low motivation.  When was the last time you exercised? 

4.  Waiting to talk with advisors. 
Some people tell me they aren’t writing until they can see their advisor or until they can be sure that one direction, rather than another, is the right one. 

The reason for waiting?  They say they don’t want to waste time.

I may be wrong, but putting off writing—even if it’s to get the go-ahead from someone—is wasting time.

How do you deal with reasons that you put in your way for not writing your dissertation?  Are some reasons justified?

I would like to hear what’s in your way.  This week, as a special gift for signing up for my Smart Tips newsletter, I will give you 30 minutes of my time to help you jump start your work in February.  Go to my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my no-cost Smart Tips e-newsletter.

All good wishes to you for a great start to February.

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Nancy
Your Dissertation Coach
www.nwcoaching.com

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I’ve been frittering, frittering away the time I set aside for writing.  Not only have I been frittering it away, but I’ve been putting one of my vices in its place.

This is a dangerous time of the year.  Not only is it Halloween, heralded in grocery stores and drug stores by rows upon rows of sacks of “fun-sized” Snickers and other character-busting candy, but in my family  we celebrate a couple of birthdays in October.  That means cake and ice cream.  And house guests.  And food.

Eating those Fun-Sized Snickers becomes yet another way to procrastinate on my writing projects.  Once I give in to all of that Halloween candy and birthday treats, I get into more trouble by slowing down on exercise.
 
I’m going to say that you also have these issues and sometimes procrastinate on writing your dissertation.  So, here’s what I think:
 
1.  It is dangerous to let food/sugar become yet another way to procrastinate.
 Like doing busy work, eating can be substituted for writing and other productive activity.  When I’m munching and loving that taste of nuts and chocolate, it feels as if I’m doing something important.  And I can once again put off writing– for 5 minutes or for however long I can distract myself.

2.  It is dangerous to stop exercising, even for a few days.
 There seems to be a slippery slope once I give in to Fun-Sized Snickers.  I find excuses to stop exercising and eating escalates.  Once the structures I have in place start to fall, like the time I usually give to exercise, I can’t seem to find the time to write.
 
3.  It is dangerous to have negative goals. 
 It is true that I don’t want to give myself any excuses to slip and slide into the bad old patterns.  But researchers tell us that positive goals are easier to achieve.

4.  It is dangerous to go on auto-pilot.
 When I’m particularly busy in preparation for an event or working for others, I need to find an early-morning quiet time to take care of me.  I need to remind myself what is important. 

•  I will choose how I’ll make writing a priority (write early).
• Exercise is critical.  Even if I have company, even if I have a birthday, even if it’s Halloween (or Thanksgiving, yikes!), I will exercise.  Exercise helps me focus, prioritize, and lowers my stress level. If I exercise, I don’t slip down as easily into squishy self-deception/self-sabotage.

How about you?  I’d love to hear how you manage procrastination.

Please stop by my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my free electronic newsletter– I’m giving a bonus for signing up.

Until next time,

Nancy
www.nwcoaching.com
 

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I often ask my dissertation clients, when they commit to a goal, if this is a no- kidding, no-fooling goal.

Since it is often said that the key to finishing a dissertation is perseverance, I’m asking them if they will be unstoppable, and, in effect, to commit to perseverance.

But perseverance does not necessarily mean an all-out, urgent lock-down. 

One of my clients,  despite enormous achievements in her life– degrees from top schools and a high-level job, struggles with perseverance.

The word that comes to her mind when she hears the word perseverance? “Exhaustion.”  The picture that comes to her mind? “Shoulders hunched.”

Pain and tension are not prerequisites for perseverance.

If you hunch your shoulders and grind your teeth in an attempt to stick with writing your dissertation, try some of these strategies instead:

 1.  Stop and smile.  Planting a smile on your face relaxes your face and your mind.  Look around for something to smile about or just smile. 

2.  Induce a state of being mildly happy.  Researchers suggest that it’s easier to persevere if you’re in a good mood.

3.  Try to come to the work fresh.  If you have been pushing yourself to persevere in another area, you may have used up your perseverance.

4.  Try to keep yourself from contributing to failure—use self-control and allow yourself to move forward.

5.  If perseverance is not a top strength, use other top strengths as leverage.  For instance, if leadership and fairness are top strengths, how can you be fair to yourself?  How can you be a leader to yourself?

6.  Take a break to exercise.  Power walking and weight lifting have good benefits.  You will return to work with a heightened ability to concentrate, and you’ll feel happier.

7.  Practice, practice, practice.  Recognize that you are using different strengths and approaches to gain perseverance. 

8. This bears repeating–Getting what you want from yourself takes practice, practice, practice.

9. Imagine how important this project will be in 100 years.

How do you persevere?  Please share your strategies.

At my website I  offer a free newsletter. I invite you to sign up for it and let me know what you think.

Until next time,
Nancy
www.nwcoaching.com
 

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