Archive for the ‘inertia’ Category

A caller asked if I had ever coached someone who had become stalled on a house renovation project.  My answer was no, but what came to mind was how similar all big projects are.   How difficult it can be to keep going.  How crushing the project can become. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Let’s say it was you who started the renovation project. You envisioned the changes you were going to make. You put together a plan to accomplish those changes.

And you took on this project in part because of what you wanted to prove to yourself.

Following through on such a commitment takes courage and resilience.  I’ve seen someone with these qualities accomplish an amazing home renovation project.  He almost single-handedly built a large room onto their house. He’s an accomplished man, but he’s not a carpenter, nor is he an architect. Nevertheless, over many months, the structure came together, and it’s a lovely addition to their home.

Completing such a project must be more than satisfying.  I would guess that the end feeling would be relief coupled with enormous joy in the accomplishment.

But if the renovation project, just like a stalled dissertation, is yours and if you’re stuck, re-starting takes courage and a willingness to look with new eyes at what this project will require from you.

Here are the five steps to help you restart:

1.  You need a plan, the more detailed the better.  A plan, with specific details, will guide you, and it will also be a way of keeping track.  It’s easier to keep going when you can check off items on a list or a plan.

2.  Make realistic, manageable goals each and every day or work session. Short-term goals and next steps keep you focused on the present.  And that’s where you have to work.

3.  When you accomplish the day’s goal, stop for the day—it may be counterproductive to push yourself beyond a reasonable stopping point.  Stopping when you’ve reached a realistic goal gives you the strength to come back another day.  If you go beyond the realistic goal, you start to risk burn-out or exhaustion. Exhaustion makes it much harder to return to the project.

4.  After you quit for the day, acknowledge yourself for the courage it took to come back to the project yet another day and to do what you said you were going to do.  Big Gold Stars!

5.  Draw on that feeling of renewed courage and the surge of joy to start your work another day.

Embarrassment, discouragement, and shame are likely to accompany getting stuck on something as open and visible as a home renovation or building project. Having one’s failure on public display can be brutal.  But the dread of being found out when a failure isn’t so visible, as in being stalled on a dissertation, is also brutally hard to bear. 

Life’s too short to live in dread or shame. You have a choice. I say get started on that detailed plan, plot your first step, and then take it.

Are you stalled on a dissertation, or have you been stalled?  What is your next step?  I’d love to hear from you.

All good wishes to you,


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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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! 



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


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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,


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


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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

How are you doing with building your writing habit? Are you writing your dissertation?

It’s easy to play around on email or to read and even respond to blogs, but sitting down and starting a writing session is hard.  I talk every day with people engaged in serious, difficult research and analysis. Most have demanding advisors. A writing session can come with high-stakes.  Moving into it can be an intricate maneuver.

In my March newsletter of Smart Tips for Writers, I wrote about the importance of putting a routine in place. I’ve had feedback from several people, saying that they found my plan helpful.  One person said that “developing daily routines” had “helped disconnect the mental inertia,” and “writing in small sections” made “the task more manageable.”

Not only is it important to have a sequence of steps preparing you and leading you to your writing session, but it’s also important that you have a block of time that you’ve given over to the writing. Some have given a daily block of 4 hours, others give 2 hours; another person with a 1 year-old, and a 1 ½ hour commute to a major university where she teaches is committing to 15 minutes every morning before she leaves home.  However long or short the block of time, working on your dissertation during that time period must be a daily action.  Consistency.  Practice, practice, practice.

The people who joined my Dissertation Boot Camp say that establishing the writing habit has been pivotal to their moving closer to the goal of finishing their dissertation.

Do you have the habit?  Are you writing daily?   Go to my website (www.nancywhichard.com).  Check out my Dissertation Boot Camp, and sign up for my Smart Tips for Writers Newsletter.

I’d love to hear what has been instrumental to your success.  What do you have in place that is serving your goal?

Until next time,


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


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Whenever you have pen in hand or hands on keys, ready to start on your dissertation, do you suddenly feel tired? Moments before, were you bustling around, perhaps busy just for the sake of being busy?

1. Get out of your own way

Nothing stands between you and your dissertation, except for yourself.  Even if you could have started writing earlier, let that go and focus on now.  Now you have a choice—even if you feel sluggish.  You can give in and decide you need a nap, or you can talk yourself past this moment.

2.  Be gentle, yet firm

Give yourself a chance to become present—push aside the rest of what is going on in your life.  Do what you need to do in order to settle in and turn your thoughts to the work at hand.

3.  Here we go!  Paper or screen?

If you’re like me, you prefer to start with a pen and paper. I like a pen that is smear-proof.  I hate getting ink all over my clothes and  hands (o.k., I”m messy!). I also like a yellow legal pad.  The screen will be there later, but for now I need something  less rigid and unyielding than a screen.

4. Let go— crank it up!

You need to find the easiest and most efficient way to generate and then capture ideas.  That may mean listening to some loud music for a minute to crank up your energy level and to get you going. Then start writing.  Write in fragments and phrases.  Write quickly—don’t stop or that law of inertia will let you grind to a halt.  It takes only a second for inerta to set in and for the Lizard Brain to snag us.

5.  Be bold – dart past Lizard Brain

We often throw out the excuse that if we write quickly, our writing won’t be worth much. At that moment, Lizard Brain sees its opening and rushes in to protect us.  Result– we don’t write anything.  But haven’t you heard that we usually throw out 2/3 of what we write for a dissertation?  The only way to get that 1/3 that you’re going to keep is to work fast to get the bad writing out there on the page, ready to be cut later on. Go for momentum. Remember that everything is fixable.

6.  Set a realistic goal for how long you’ll write—shorter is better

What’s a realistic goal?  Start with the amount of time you can bare to sit still.  A number that doesn’t make you throw up your hands in despair and wail that you’ll never be able even to sit down if you have to write for that long. Set a goal that you know you can achieve. Yes, 15 minutes is perfectly fine for a writing session.  And then stop—don’t go past that time.

7.  Be smart as a fox

If you stop at the time you set, you will not feel burned out.  What’s better, even if it’s a piddly amount of time, you will smile slyly to yourself that you actually made your goal.  Sitting down to write the next time will be much easier if you made your goal today.

What would you add for #8?  I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s to smiling slyly,


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

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Did TV stations really sign off at midnight at one time?  Before cable and satellite and Nancy Grace and her crowd of journalists, giving us no news all the time, yes, the TV day ended … at midnight or shortly thereafter, followed by the “Star Spangled Banner,” and then the test pattern.

The time seems so long ago, but You Tube shows the end of the TV day in Greensboro, NC in 1987 with the American flag waving in the breeze to the playing of the National Anthem (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1YOw4EDFhc).

What might happen for all of us writers if the TV day ended abruptly?

Well, for starters, we might get more sleep.

When I ask my dissertation clients what change in their life might be of the most help in their reaching their daily writing goal, many clients say that getting to bed at a decent time ranks close to the top.

Getting to bed at a not-too-ridiculous time can help you stick with your writing, do a decent job of writing, and actually move you closer to getting that project out the door.

What happens after you’ve had a long day or a long week, perhaps taught an evening class, or put the kids to bed, and now at last you have time to yourself?  Do you sit down to put in a couple of hours on your writing?

More often than not, you sit down in front of the TV to relax for just a minute. Clicking the remote, you find it harder and harder to turn off the TV and get up out of that chair.  You settle in to watch the umpteenth rerun of a Law and Order Special Victims Unit show.

One client says that she gets hooked on late-night viewing of the History channel.  It’s hard to pull away from stories about the Aryan Brotherhood or Secrets of Underground London or New York.

If you don’t fall asleep in front of the TV, you finally drag yourself to bed, annoyed at the wasted time, and realizing what the effect will be on you tomorrow.  And how easy it will be to avoid your work. Which might have been the underlying motive for sitting there.

More sleep= clear mind, less stress, AND improved productivity.  A WIN!

But we need some help– wouldn’t it be easier to get that sleep if we had the American flag or a test pattern staring back at us when we turn on the TV?  Maybe we could tape the sign-off and play it when we sit down.  How about that link to You Tube?

Best to you,


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

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