Archive for the ‘regrouping’ 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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To Do: Dissertation likes my using the rocks metaphor in “Is Your Dissertation One of Your Big Rocks?”
Many thanks to ToDo, who has a tip for us– go to youtube
Thanks! What fun!
See you on YouTube

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



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Change is happening in the Washington DC area, not just in Congress, but here in my backyard.  Spring is here.  Tulips are pushing their way above ground.   The trees are dropping all sorts of little colored pellets on my deck and front walk. 

The first days of Spring are a great time to assess your writing habits and consider how they are working for you or against you.  It’s an opportune time for you to consider where change in your writing process might help you. 

Time to clean house.

You’ve probably been down this road before, deciding to make a change but not putting any muscle into that decision.  However, there are positive strategies that can achieve lasting results.

Most of these involve capitalizing on the power of habit. 

In December 2008, I wrote a post in this space called “Make Getting Started on Your Writing Easier: Top 5 Reasons to Develop a No-Kidding, No-Fooling Daily Writing Habit.”

If you were fighting the dissertation battle then, 15 months ago, you may have read my “top 5 reasons for developing a solid, robust, no-kidding daily writing habit.”  And perhaps you would have made changes at that time.  Then these last 15 months might have been different.  Maybe you wouldn’t have continued to sabotage yourself and expend energy resisting writing rather than putting your energy into writing.  

What if you stopped making excuses now?  How about committing to  writing every day, even if only fifteen minutes a day?  Before you back away and begin again with the excuses, consider how writing every day, preferably at a scheduled time and maybe first thing in your day, would increase your productivity and, most importantly, would have you writing. 

Where do you need to exert control and spend your energy? What can you do to help yourself be mentally tough?  I’d love to hear from you. 

Enjoy the season.  How about a change?

Best to you,


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


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How was your writing today?

You couldn’t get a flow going today during your writing session? 

Some writing sessions are like that–you start off more slowly, maybe because you’re tired, it’s the end of the week, or maybe because you didn’t prime the pump, didn’t try to induce a good mood, or didn’t practice resiliency before you began the effort

Or perhaps you’re starting to see some success and you’re just a bit uneasy because you are thinking you may actually meet your deadline?

Once again, it’s time to practice resiliency. 

Remind yourself that this time there’s no backsliding—but be playful as well as firm. 

Laugh at the time you were so self-congratulatory for how well you were doing on a paper that you barely finished the project under deadline! 

Resiliency is a skill that you learn through practice. A great way to increase your resiliency is laugh at your foibles and shenanigans. Use your sense of humor and self-knowledge to fuel your writing session.

 Have a good weekend,


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


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Have you ignored your dissertation and your dissertation advisor for some time?  Entertaining the idea of restarting the project and of contacting your advisor may cause more than a few fears to surface. 

Are you afraid what the lapse in time may say about you?  The truth is that it doesn’t say much of anything, except that writing a dissertation takes a long time, is very hard, and even the smartest and bravest people on occasion sabotage themselves and get in their own way.

Are you fearful that there will be a penalty for coming back and re-starting? You won’t know until you ask.

It is true that occasionally an advisor will be hands-off, saying that the graduate student should write a full draft before requesting another meeting. Such an attitude leaves me speechless, spitting, but speechless.

It is difficult to direct and supervise a dissertation, but directing, supervising, and advising are the responsibilities of an advisor. Most advisors take their responsibilities seriously, but you have to initiate contact and you have to ask for help.

Take these steps to re-group and re-start your dissertation:   
• Contact your advisor and say that you are alive and ready to work.  Avoid all opportunities to second-guess yourself.  Do not put off contacting your advisor until you have produced more text.

• Arrange weekly phone calls between the two of you. Even if you don’t have anything to show your advisor today, once you have made contact, you will start writing. 

• Plan for occasional visits to campus.  Raise the bar on yourself by having specific dates for when you will have new or revised text and for when you will appear in the flesh.

• Requesting an extension and receiving an extension are not unusual. If you think you will need to ask your graduate school for an extension of the deadline for submitting a final document, look into that now.

If you have had limited contact with your advisor and if you feel that no one at your university knows where you are or what you are doing, get in touch with your advisor as soon as possible and keep in touch. 

Take a big step forward on your dissertation and also on maintaining  your self-respect. 
What tips do you have for re-establishing contact with your dissertation advisor?  I’d love to hear from you. 

Until next time,


P.S.  Go to my website at  to sign up for my online Smart Tips for Writers.  The September issue will go out soon.

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


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Are you negotiating some of life’s bits and pieces today in order to write your dissertation?   Has something gotten to you today or this week?  It happens.

We’re knocked about every day, but we keep going, even with pressures about fitting everything into our schedules, uncertainties about jobs, and, if you commute to work, traffic.  Usually, we’re resilient, even intrepid, as we go about our jobs, taking care of our family, and, yes, writing… writing dissertations, writing articles, writing books.

But occasionally, we run into overwhelm, too many promises broken, too little support, and our hope and resilience are tested.

Yesterday and today I’ve been mad as a hornet about something that’s not very important in the great scheme of things.  I was to have some work done where I live, but the workers showed up with the wrong materials to do the job, resulting in a the need to reschedule and the strong possibility that lots of additional people would be inconvenienced.

It wasn’t the workers’ fault.  The faceless scheduler at the company carelessly assigned a two-person crew to a four-person job and completely ignored both the materials needed and the sequence of the steps in the job itself.

What kind of a Mickey Mouse company is this? I asked.  I stomped about and fretted for quite a while.  But it doesn’t serve me to blow up about a dysfunctional company. 

How do I let go of the drama and not get stuck here?  What strengths do I call on?

If you, too, are occasionally knocked off your stride, what do you do to help you let go of the madness and move back toward your center? What do you do to quickly regain your footing in order to focus on your work and to be productive?

I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,


P.S.  What is your goal over the next couple of weeks and what steps are you taking to keep focused on that goal?  Do you have some tips for the rest of us or some questions? 

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


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Procrastinating on finishing your dissertation’s conclusion?  If so, you have company.  Writing the conclusion can be a time when many people clutch.

Needing Feedback?

One reason why many dissertation writers start to slow down when they’re at this point is that they aren’t getting feedback from their advisor or mentor.  If you don’t have a sense that you’re basically on the right track, stopping dead in your tracks may seem the prudent thing to do.

It’s easy to use lack of feedback as an excuse for not returning to your dissertation.  And if added responsibilities that many academics and writers have to assume in September are triggering a case of the nerves, letting the diss slip may seem the only way out.
But hold on — don’t be too quick to shelve your dissertation, even for a few days.  If you’re procrastinating on writing the conclusion, there may be a bigger truth that you need to face up to.

Facing up to a Bigger Truth

Writing a dissertation always involves risks of one kind or another, but what can rattle some writers during the conclusion is a greater sense of audience. Many writers say that the conclusion is dangerous territory. 

Are your advisor and committee members researching and publishing in the very same area as you? If so, that usually is a plus, but when you’re writing the conclusion, it can make things a bit sticky.

Finger-pointing at Current Researchers

Some writers are at an impasse because they want to point out that past (or current) researchers have stopped short or have missed opportunities to advance the field.  Is there a diplomatic way to say that?

Giving Credit

To address past research and to finish the conclusion to your dissertation, consider these suggestions, some of which came from ABD’s and their advisors:

1. State very clearly what you set out to do, how you accomplished that goal, and why your accomplishment is important. 
2. Be sure that you carefully outline the issue before you launch any kind of critique.
3.  Pinpoint where the thinking and thought leaders are going to move next and why.
4. Don’t be dismissive.
5.  Be critical, but be gracious.
6.  Give credit where it’s due.

The dissertation, no matter how polished, is a draft for whatever comes next for you.  Later when you write your book and articles, you will have additional opportunities to critique current research and critical thought in your field.

It is always wise to tread carefully and thoughtfully if you sense a minefield.
I’d love to hear your tips for pushing through to the end.  Please drop me an email.

For now, here’s to ending procrastination and ending the dissertation—


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach

P.S.  Have you been putting off finishing your dissertation? Or maybe you’re procrastinating on starting the dissertation?  All procrastinators—please make a note:  The next issue of my newsletter, Smart Tips for Writers, will feature “How to Become a Recovering Procrastinator.”  Don’t delay. Go to www.nancywhichard.com to sign up.

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If you are still on the fence about re-starting your dissertation, the truth is that it doesn’t have to be hard.  Make it easy.

For the first session in re-starting your dissertation, you just show up.  You don’t have to write.  You don’t have to search for articles or read.  You just show up.  And we all know how important showing up is. 

Decide before sitting down how long this first session will be.  10 minutes?  You decide. 

So this first time in your special place and at the chosen hour, you sit down.  Take a few deep breaths.  Slow everything to a halt.  If you feel anxious, then do some self-calming exercises—talk aloud or tap your pulse point on your wrist or roll your shoulders and your neck. 

This is a good time to reflect or meditate.  Or think of you at your best. 

Again, help yourself to feel at ease.  If you find that you need something at your chosen place for writing to comfort you—a picture, a soft stuffed animal, a pillow—make a mental note to round that up once this first session is over.  For now, tell yourself that you do not have to stay one minute past your scheduled 10 minutes, or whatever amount of time you had decided.

And when the time is up, get up—don’t stay there.

Now pat yourself on the back because you showed up, you sat there, you calmed yourself, you did not check your email, and you did not answer the phone or make calls.

If you messed up and did something other than showing up, then plan for another initiation of your new writing plan.  Plan for another 10-minute session and tell yourself how you will spend your time and what is allowable during that time.

You’re re-wiring your multi-tasking, harried brain.  You are showing up.  You are sitting  in a your chosen place for writing and anticipating doing very soon a great deal on your dissertation.

 One step at a time.

“Little by little, one walks far”  — Peruvian Proverb

Your Dissertation Coach

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There’s still time for a January surge on your dissertation.

In this time of fresh starts, you first need to decide on the where and the when of your dissertation writing.

Where?  Where will you work?  Do you have a place at home where you won’t be interrupted and where you won’t give in to taking naps or pushing furniture around or watching TV?  If not, then you need to get out of the house.  Where will you work? Decide that first.

When?  Will you write first thing in the morning?  Will you get coffee and then write? Don’t give away the time when you are at your best.  Don’t set yourself up for failure by planning on it when you think you might have to take the baby to the doctor or walk the dogs or get caught in traffic and miss the appointed time.

Congratulations!  You have a Where and When.

Re-starting your dissertation writing can be just that easy.

There’s a lot of power in small steps—take a small step and see how it goes.

Your Dissertation Coach

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As you write your dissertation, have you wondered how you are going to make it through those times when you feel as if you’ve been punched in the stomach? those low points that come after devastating setbacks?

Do you ever say to yourself, “Why does this have to be so hard?”

Most of us have at one time or another.

When you are knocked off your feet by an unexpectedly critical evaluation of a proposal or a chapter, what do you do?

As I think this morning about what happened in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, I’m struck with how winning for two politicians came on the heels of huge setbacks.

John McCain’s presidential fortunes at one time had been so low that he had been all but written off.

And who gave Hillary Clinton any chance at all of winning in New Hampshire after being beaten so badly in Iowa?

It has to take a deep reservoir of courage and trust– trusting in one’s self even when you feel incredibly wounded–to come back from huge political defeats.

The same can be said for rebounding from a setback in the dissertation process.

Even though you’ve had a severe setback, you still have choices.

And to find the will to make a choice, you go to your own deep pool of resources.

Deciding that you are going to do whatever you can to get back on your feet, making a choice, and taking action can in the long-run give you strength that you would be hard-put to find in any other way.

That new strength becomes part of your inner resources.

It will be there for you to call on when you hit another snag in your life or career or writing.

I’d love to hear what your experiences have been.  How have you dealt with setbacks?

Until next time,


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

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