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Is there a writer who isn’t lured and waylaid by the distractions of the internet and email?

Is there a writer who hasn’t written about those same distractions?

How about you? How well did you do today? Did you stay on task and reach your writing goal for the day? Or did procrastination and Facebook win out?

My dissertation coaching clients are trying to use the Nothing Alternative—that is, during the time they’ve set aside to write, they write… or do nothing. They tell me, though, that the Nothing Alternative strains their willpower. They do better if they remove the temptation of the internet.

Several clients are using SelfControl software or the Anti-Social app to lock them out of the internet.  This week I heard about another program—Freedom.   

The client who told me about Freedom said that even though he has used it successfully, he frequently has to talk himself into setting it up.  And why would he resist a successful strategy? Because once he has it up and running, he will have robbed himself of his excuses not to write. It’s write or do nothing.

My client is in good company.

Writer Nora Ephron says that every morning she spends several hours “failing to make a transition” from reading the morning newspaper to working and being productive. To help to fight her urge to procrastinate, she sets up Freedom on her computer to lock out the internet. 

Seth Godin, the master marketer, blogger, and author, is also a fan of Freedom. He compares using Freedom “with being cornered with nowhere to turn.” And the advantage of being cornered, he says, is “that it leaves you . . . unable to stall or avoid the real work.”

Novelist Zadie Smith speaks knowingly of the lure of the internet. She says, “When I am using the Internet, I am addicted. I’m not able to concentrate on anything else.” To give herself time to write, she uses Freedom, but she still has to put her phone (on which she can get email) “in another part of the house, it’s pathetic. Like a drug addict. I put it in a cupboard so that I can write for five hours.”

My clients ask the same questions that Smith asks, “Is it me alone? Am I making it up? Does nobody feel this way?”

Writing is hard work, and most of us yearn for distraction, especially something as mindless as the internet and email.  Lock it all up—give yourself  some freedom!

Happy Writing!

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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 Mental toughness, self-control, willpower, grit— I turn again to these compelling strengths. Why? Because distractions, especially electronic distractions, complicate the writer’s life.  The struggle for self-control over distractions takes up more and more of your mental space. 

What can you use to free your mental space in order to concentrate on your writing? What can help you maintain self-control, be mentally tough, and not overwhelm your willpower?

You know all too well that willpower often just isn’t enough to get you started on your writing and also keep you off of Facebook.

In the book Willpower, co-authors Roy Baumeister and John Tierney argue that what they call precommitment can protect you from the uncertainties of willpower. For instance, if you have set a specific time for writing, and you practice starting at that same time for a couple of weeks, you will have less need to depend on willpower to save the day.

The so-called Nothing Alternative is such a precommitment.  When you use the Nothing Alternative, not only do you decide ahead of time that at a certain time of day, you will sit down and write, but you also decide ahead of time that you will do nothing but write.   

My dissertation coaching clients have responded positively to the Nothing Alternative and have some great suggestions for implementing it. Two of my coaching clients are especially enthusiastic about the Anti-Social app and the SelfControl program.

 1) Anti-Social

If you routinely get email that you think you need to respond to throughout the time you have set aside to write, you may find it harder and harder to write and even give up the writing altogether in order to answer the emails. 

 The Anti-Social application for macs allows you to shut off the social part of the internet and email while you are working on your computer. You can “be anti-social” for any amount of time. 

 To turn off Anti-Social, you have to restart your computer and according to my client, you “feel crappy if you restart your computer just to get into email.” 

Precommitting to this program for a certain amount of time helps you to conserve willpower for emergencies.  

2)  SelfControl

Another way to implement the Nothing Alternative is to use the SelfControl software.

This free software asks you to list the internet pages that you want to block, such as email, Facebook, specific online newspapers, and a few pages that you most often visit.  It’s your choice.

If you need the internet for research, you can still visit Google or other specific pages that you need.

Once you set the timer, for that specific length of time, you cannot get into anything that you have blocked, even if you turn off the computer.  My client says, “If you feel less motivated during that time, you can stare into space for a minute, but you can’t get onto Facebook, so you might as well work.” 

 

 

Using such programs helps you stay committed to your writing and lets you conserve your willpower.  

I would love to hear what your strategies are for conserving willpower and for using willpower effectively. 

Happy Writing!

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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A child watching TV.

Image via Wikipedia

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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To build any significant momentum on your dissertation, you need to write every day.  It’s up to you how much you do every day, but commit to daily action and start a specific plan.

What do you need to do to get started?

1. Plan your schedule and keep it in front of you.
Use a hand-written daily calendar and make it visible—put it on a whiteboard. Know when you will settle in to work every day for a week at a time.  Check that calendar (even though it won’t change), just to make it clear to your Lizard Brain that you will be in a certain spot and at certain time. 

2. Underpromise the amount of time you will work each day.
•  Be sure that you can work for the amount of time you are committing to.  Don’t set yourself up for failure by overpromising.
•  At the end of each work session, celebrate achieving your goal.  Give yourself a pat on the back and a big smile, plus a big star on your calendar.

 3. Anticipate that you will try to sabotage your own plan
If you have a plan, will you still try to flake away?  Probably– you’re an expert on this.  How many times have you tried to start writing but still thrown “yeah, but’s” in your path. Don’t give yourself any leeway once you’ve put your schedule in place.

4. Get clear on where you slip up– Make a list of your treacherous distractions.
What have been your  preferred interruptions and diversions?  I’ve been around  master procrastinators, and I’ve done a bit of it myself.  You can’t fool a fooler.

•  Does it all start with email?
The bane of your existence, perhaps?  Too often all mischief starts with your checking an email for just a few seconds.

•  Once you surrender to Facebook, is all hope lost?
Facebookhas shown “genius in harnessing the collective procrastination of an entire planet,”  says the Washington Post. But, you knew that, right?  And then on to Youtube. Whether it’s your boss sending you links to videos or you surfing Youtube, you get hooked and time passes.

5. Earn the time for social networking.
Earn the time by showing up on time for your writing session and sticking with it.  Write. Don’t give your best time to what should be rewards.  Earn the minutes that you will spend on Facebook or email.

6. Be accountable.
Again, anticipate where you stopped short in the past.  Adding someone else to your process is a winning strategy.

You have lots of choices.  Try one or try them all:
•  Get in touch with your advisor
•  Buddy up with another writer
•  Check out a Dissertation Boot Camp
•  Hire a dissertation coach

Time to commit to daily writing:
•  Make a plan
•  Get your support system in place.

Best wishes,

Nancy

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

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Zillow.com gives you information about houses.  If you’re doing work on house values, studying a specific house, or studying an area connected with a person, Zillow.com might be helpful.

It could also be your reward for a break after you reach a writing goal.

You can find information by putting in a street address, city, and state of a house, or you can just put in the street address and zip code.

You may get an aerial view of the home and area.  In addition you’ll get an estimate of the current house value (often it’s the tax assessment).

If you’re in the market for a specific house, you might be interested in other information that often is included—such as, number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, lot size. I very much like the feature of the year the house was built.

But what I like most is the Bird’s Eye View.

I looked up the first house we owned.  It’s in a city 490 miles from where we now live. We were the first owners, and seeing the date it was built reminded me of many of my life’s milestones.  Hovering over the house in my Bird’s Eye View reminded me of my neighbors:

the family with the active, cute boys on one side of us, the woman in the family on the other side who was earning her doctorate in English [at that time it hadn’t occurred to me that I might someday earn a doctorate, too], the people across the street who brought us a bottle of wine when we moved in and shared their experiences on keeping the front yard as natural as possible.

It’s interesting how much info there is on Zillow.com, and it’s remarkable how many memories its Bird’s Eye View can evoke.

Hope Zillow might be of use to you in your dissertation.

If you use Zillow as a reward after you’ve reached a writing goal, be sure you’ve planned your break well.  Remember to set your timer.  Stop at the sound.  Result– a great, guilt-free break.

Until next time,

Nancy

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

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Sometime ago, I wanted to talk with a real person at Amazon about my order.   I looked everywhere on the Amazon site.  I couldn’t believe it– I could not find a phone number anywhere.

Aggravated, I typed into Google “What is the telephone number for Amazon?”  And it came up– 1-800 -201-7575.

Today, just for fun, I typed in the same question.  Now, there is not only the site that I saw the first time, but several other sites pop up. One suggests that it would be easier just to google “telephone Amazon.”  Direct, simple.

Since I have a tendency unknowingly to make up words (left over, I’m sure, from a childhood where my grandpa, with his Irish heritage, started me on this path), I often use Google just to see if results come up for a word that I’m not sure about, such as “uptick.”  When I heard someone use it, I thought maybe it had been made up.  When I googled “uptick,” I found 964,000 results. Yep, it is a word in good standing.

In an email exchange, “chaise longues” didn’t look right.  Google not only let me know that “chaise longues” is correct, but it also gave me some websites to add to my list of interesting resources:

1)  “Common Errors in English” by a professor of English at Washington State University.

2)  Michael Quinion’s “World Wide Words” in which he writes about international English from a British view.

Since I had learned that I could now use “telephone Amazon” as a shortcut on Google, I decided to shoot some other commands at Google.

I tried “spell chaise lounge,” and the Columbia Guide to Standard American English gave two spellings: “chaise longue, chaise lounge (n.).”  The Guide said, “Both terms are Standard today, but those who know French still take exception to chaise lounge.”

Both terms are standard?  I decided I’d check other resources about that!

This time, to see what a difference a verb would make, I commanded “define chaise lounge.” The Free Dictionary  “redirected” me to “chaise longue” while the Urban Dictionary screamed

“ERROR…ERROR…ERROR.
Use this if you do NOT know what you are saying.
A term used by wannabes to try to look intelligent.”

Thank you, Googe and Urban Dictionary,  I don’t want to look like a wannabe.

As I write, the blog being honored at WordPress as the “Blog of the Minute” is “Life at Google—the Microsoftie Perspective,” in which the writer  is revealing the negative side about working at Google.

Weethan, a WordPress blogger, says, “And we say no to  google, why?”

A comment from Wahyu, another WordPress blogger, gives due credit to Google, and also makes me laugh:
google is like a my wife
i need tutorial for study just ask google
i need tutorial for life just ask google
i need anything first thing is google!
google google google oh yeahhhh

I agree with Wahyu; I can’t imagine not having Mr. Google ever at the ready.

Nancy

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

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