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Archive for the ‘memorable start’ Category

The New Year at its most powerful is a time for reflection and a time to think about where you want to put your focus.  The holidays are often jam-packed with travel, planning, buying, eating, interacting, negotiating, and not much quiet time. The first week of the New Year may reveal that it’s harder to focus than you had thought it was.

On the first coaching day of the New Year among those dissertation coaching clients who showed up as expected, I also had a client show up unexpectedly—she had forgotten that she wanted to start a week later. On subsequent days the schedules of a couple more clients unexpectedly conflicted with their coaching calls. The first day or so of starting a new schedule or returning to a routine after a busy holiday can make for a bumpy ride and a feeling of loss of control.

While my holiday began with the usual hurry-hurry pace, by Christmas Day I had moved into the best part of the holiday–the familiar gift exchanges, special meals, and the less familiar travel to a new home of a loved one.

The most different part of my Christmas holiday was going with my whole family to Manhattan on Christmas Monday. The crowds both at Macy’s at Herald Square and at Rockefeller Center skating rink and Christmas tree were enormous, but fun, jolly, and relaxed. We joined the cold-night sauntering of the crowds down Fifth Avenue, oohing and ahhing over the window displays at Tiffany and Bergdorf Goodman and the light shows and illuminations on the tall buildings.

Celebrating the holiday with my family and also with this huge, unhurried crowd of friendly strangers heavily bundled against the night’s cold was not only relaxing, but it was also a way to reset my frequently frenzied focus. I could concentrate on what was there to be seen and to be experienced. I lost myself in the moment, enjoying the city at its most beautiful. 

Having those few hours not only to be unplugged, but also to feel transported and intensely engaged in a sensory, beautiful experience gave me the pause I needed to come back to my work with a desire to improve my level of focus and concentration.

To help me sharpen my focus in this New Year, I’m giving myself time each day to pause. I’m setting aside an hour each day where I have the choice on where to place my focus.

I also realize how much I need to have experiences of beauty and wonder in my life. Reading has always given me those kinds of experiences, but increasingly my reading is for my work or has chosen by someone else. Recently I happened to read Téa Obreht wonderful novel The Tiger’s Wife, which created a world that beckoned me to re-engage for days and weeks to unravel webs of images and secrets and relationships.

Knowing that I’m better in many ways–focus, concentration, motivation– if I’m reading a novel that engages me and asks something of me, I’m also giving myself permission to spend some time looking for such novel to read each month—one that engages me and could very likely leave me awestruck

What do you need to have in your life in this New Year? Do you also need something that will boost your focus and concentration in 2012?  I’d love to hear what you think.

All good wishes to you for 2012,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com

http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net

http://www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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If your goal is to work on your dissertation or your article, what gets in your way and eats up your time and energy?

Every writer can find a million more important things to do, such as watching all the episodes of the first season of Downton Abbey in one day. 

But what else derails your writing plans?

Kids?  Family?  A job?  Check, check, check.

If the derailers were just kids-family-job, you could still most likely find a bit time to write.  But there’s something else that is a wretched waste of time and energy, and it’s a frequent, even daily occurrence over which you have little control  . . . your commute!

If you have a bad commute, you have my sympathies. 

A bad commute has an intensely harmful influence on your quality of life and also on your making headway in your writing. Not only does a bad commute increase your anxiety, but it can turn you into someone you’d rather not know.  I bet you’ve seen that side of yourself when you’re stuck in traffic. 

It affects your mood and even your cognitive performance.  And those negative effects are long-lasting, affecting your ability to follow through on plans to write and your ability to focus.

Please take a minute and let me know if your commute is an issue for you, and how it affects your writing. How do you work around the stress of a bad commute and make headway on your writing?    

Hoping you’re sprinting past the barriers and 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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When did you first hear of “decision fatigue”?

Perhaps, like me, it was when the New York Times Magazine published an article on decision fatigue and you started getting emails from your friends and family with links to that article.  In fact, you probably received many links, and maybe the term “decision fatigue” has even become part of your vocabulary.

That article in the New York Times  is a chapter from a newly published book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (September 2011), co-authored by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and New York Times science writer John Tierney.

Decision fatigue, or “ego depletion,” to use the original term coined by Baumeister, comes from Baumeister’s research on willpower and motivation. 

His research has long been influential, particularly his findings that willpower, like a muscle, can become fatigued. And because willpower can become fatigued, you can’t count on it always to be available. But, like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened with practice.

Writers struggle with their willpower far beyond what you might think, particularly since you may have already depleted your reserve of willpower before you even decide to write. 

Baumeister has found that we usually spend about four hours a day struggling with temptation and trying to engage our willpower.

So when you finally get around to writing, what have you got?  Nothing?  There’s a lot of nothing going around.

As a writer, how much do you depend on your willpower?  If your willpower deserts you, what are your options? 

What can you do to have a reserve of willpower available to you when you most need it?

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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When you’re writing a dissertation, it’s likely that you’ll feel isolated.  Many dissertators say how much they long to be back at the university where they could talk with their peers about their ideas and their writing.

Too often the isolated dissertation writer feels less than excited about the writing.  And productivity suffers.

Talking with others helps you to bounce back when you’re feeling down.  But sometimes you think that only others who are in the same situation can empathize with you.

You may avoid the people with whom you could have contact because you think they wouldn’t want to talk about your writing.  You may be right.  But you may have other things in common.

  • Someone with whom you enjoy sharing lunch or talking to about the kids or the football game or the  3K race coming up Sunday
  •  Someone with whom you can compare prices and benefits of one gym over another
  •  Someone to whom you can reveal your less-than-complete knowledge or understanding of a product or the way your car works

Positive Psychology researchers contend that one of the most important ways to improve one’s job satisfaction is by having a friend at work.  Similarly, when you’re struggling with a dissertation, having a friend to chat with can give you a boost and improve the way you look at your job as a writer.

Having a friend helps to bring out the best in you. If you feel that someone recognizes your worth as a person and also shares some of your values, you will probably feel more confident in exercising your strengths and talents.

The more you can use your strengths, the more likely it is that you will feel more resilient about your writing.  And resilience brings greater productivity.

When you’re feeling alone or perhaps that the world is against you, look around for a friend.  Aristotle said, “The antidote for 50 enemies is one friend.”

I’m curious whether you think it would be worth your time to cultivate a friend.  I’d love to hear what you think.
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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Do you work on multiple computers? How are you dealing with the need to make optimum use of your time and to make headway on your dissertation no matter at which one of those multiple computers you find yourself? 

 

Have you heard of cloud computing?

 “Cloud computing isn’t merely on the way; it’s already here, big time,” says the Washington Post.

To have access to your files no matter your location and no matter the computer you are using, you can set up a Dropbox in the cloud.

A reader of my e-newsletter Smart Tips for Writers writes that she has recently started using Dropbox and that it is “fantastic.” 

She says, “I can save files at work and access them anywhere I have internet access.” And, she adds, Dropbox “is also a good way to share large files that are too big to e-mail.”

Once you access your file, you can update it and then leave that updated file in the Dropbox. Then the latest version is always available.

You can put audio and video files into Dropbox. There is also a smartphone app.

My reader strongly recommends DropBox. She says it would be a very good way to back up a dissertation online.  She continues, “If a computer is stolen, the Dropbox files would still be safe.”

The Washington Post says that “every time you make a change to the Dropbox folder on your computer” the “mirror folder in the cloud . . . updates . . . the Dropbox folder on all your other computing devices, integrating all your digital devices. The result is that all your files are available in their most current form on every device.”

Dropbox will give you two gigs free. Give it a try, and please let me know what you think of it.

I’m hoping Dropbox will help you make better use of your time and will increase your productivity.

Nancy

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

 

 

 

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Doctoral students who have finished their course work, but not their dissertation have been given the inglorious tag of “All But Dissertation.”  Although many doctoral students proudly add “ABD” to their signature, what those three letters signify is that more work needs to be done. 

For many writers of dissertations, the process drags on and on.  Even though the average time for finishing a degree is less than at any time over the last 20 years, some studies say that the average time-to-degree is 7.7 years.   Actually, in a high percentage of disciplines, a ten-year completion rate is the norm.  Along the way, many ABD’s become discouraged and never finish. 

The percentage of those who “walk away empty-handed” is said to be more than 30 per cent. 

What are the universities doing?

In the past, I’ve thought that graduate schools make little effort to reach out to ABD’s and offer too few opportunities where ABD students could get a toe-hold in their dissertation process.

But in some quarters there have been changes. Recently, Dissertation Boot Camps have blossomed on many university campuses.  Dissertation Boot Camps profit primarily those ABD’s close to campus, but for those who attend, Boot Camps are a boon.

As recently as 3 or 4 years ago, only a handful of universities had a Writer’s Retreat or a Boot Camp. Currently, many schools post notices of Boot Camps and how a student can enroll. Among the many schools offering Boot Camps for ABD’s are Lehigh University, University of Delaware, Claremont Graduate University, and West Virginia University. 

What do Boot Camps Offer?

Most Boot Camps offer a day or a weekend of distraction-free writing time.  And just that one day or two days or writing time away from your usual demands and in the company of other writers can allow you to mentally retool and to produce text.

Some Boot Camps offer workshops as well as writing time.

The Writing Center at The Claremont Graduate University offers not only a Boot Camp, but a community. Posted on the CGU Writing Center’s website/blog are schedules for the semester’s Boot Camp and for a series of workshops geared toward writing the dissertation.  

At some schools, Boot Camp is a week in length.

If you are a PhD candidate in Humanities or Social Science at West Virginia University, you may have hit the jackpot!  The WVU Writing Center offers a Boot Camp from May 9 thru May 13.  It meets from 10 am to 4 pm (with an hour off for lunch).  Each of the 5 days has unstructured writing time, but each day also includes a presentation. The topics for the daily presentations include goal setting, balancing writing and researching, the proposal, the lit review, and intros/conclusions/abstracts.

This unique Boot Camp also offers workshopping. Workshopping gives you the opportunity to receive feedback from other participants on what you are writing.   

How do I get in?

If you are a Ph.D. candidate at a university sponsoring a Boot Camp, most likely you are eligible, although a few Boot Camps stipulate the field. 

Some Boot Camps have an application process in which, among other topics, students need to address their goals for the Boot Camp or retreat. 

Some ask for a refundable payment of $50. Most are free, though in case of Boot Camps that run for more than a day, you will have the expense of overnight lodging.  Often, the expense is modest.

At least one school has several sessions each academic term, but this is rare.  Clearly those schools which offer several sessions a year serve the greatest number of students.   

One school advertises that past participants can apply for another session.  However, many schools have limited space, and so returning students aren’t encouraged.

I am puzzled by several announcements that I have seen.  For example, in one case, four universities band together to offer a retreat for four participants from each of the four universities.  It would appear that for those four schools a total of only sixteen doctoral students will have the chance for a retreat. 

Other opportunities

Boot Camp is a wonderful opportunity for you to be removed from your everyday distractions and to be able to focus on your writing. Many writers find being around others while they write is helpful.  Occasionally you need the energy and companionship other writers can give you. 

If you’re not on campus, not eligible to take a Boot Camp, or your university doesn’t offer a Boot Camp, what other resources or choices are available to you. 

You can also enroll in my virtual Dissertation Boot Camp.  Do you need accountability?  A little low on hope?  Or how about some help in forming your own writing group?

Watch this space for more information on my Dissertation Boot Camp / Writer’s Retreat.

I would love to hear about your experiences in finding a Boot Camp or participating in one.

Happy distraction-free 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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