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Archive for the ‘self-care’ Category

As I sit here, waiting for our daughter and her husband to arrive for Thanksgiving, I think of all the people traveling today.  The bad weather has added an extra dose of anxiety to the trip.  Yet, we saddle up and head for home, no matter the weather.   Well, many of us do.

A cousin in Boston emailed me today to say, “It has been raining here since last night.  Traffic has been a nightmare.  Glad I am not going anywhere.”

My cousin may have the right idea.

With so much invested in the travelling, it’s likely that once we’re all gathered under the same roof, some conflicts could arise.

One dissertation client today told me that, yes, she is travelling, but once she arrives, her plan is to have two one-hour writing sessions during the holiday.  Each session will be at the beginning of her day before she becomes involved with family activities.

I asked, “Is this going to be a good holiday for you?”  And my client answered hesitantly, “I think it will be o.k.”

Maybe you, too, have a bit of concern about how this holiday will turn out.  What can you do to make it an o.k. holiday or maybe more than just o.k.?

  • Be in the moment.  Try to be appreciative of your family.  Think of one special person that you have been looking forward to seeing and either plan an outing or make an effort to ask the kinds of questions of that person that you know will make her feel good.
  • Take time out to rest or to be by yourself.  When you are physically tired or over-stimulated by too many people in one place, small things may begin to bother you.  Anticipate the need to recover before you’re exhausted.
  • Make time to walk or exercise—either with people or by yourself.  Exercise will help burn up some of those calories from the Thanksgiving dinner and will also help you generate positive feelings and a more tolerant perspective on your relatives.
  • If you are not a shopper, plan something special with a relative  in order to avoid the Black Friday shopping expedition. A museum or a park or somewhere quiet that is far from the mall.  This may be your only chance to get to know your cousins a little bit better.

Plan for a good holiday, a holiday with a few special moments that you can carry home with you, memories that might even put you in a good mood when it is once again time for a writing session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a comfortable, relaxing holiday.  Safe journeys.

And bring back a snapshot of a moment to remember.

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

http://www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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I’m grateful to have a wise and funny husband.  Occasionally when I’m indecisive or anxious about my writing, he’ll say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”

On a recent, blisteringly hot Saturday when I was feeling prickly because I couldn’t write worth a darn, he said, “Let’s go to a museum.” What? The afternoon had already gotten a good start, and we would have only an hour or so to walk around once we went through the heat and trouble of getting downtown. Was it really worth it?

We went, and you can bet that I wasn’t the best company for the first part of that hot trip down to the museum.

But lucky us—as we walked into Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art‘s East Building, we were met with an electric atmosphere. We had happened upon a free, intimate performance given by stars of Russian ballet: two ballerinas from the Bolshoi Theatre and two dancers from the Mariinsky Theatre.

Dancers from Russia performing excerpts from ballets

Anna Antonicheva

There on the East Building’s mezzanine, we joined a relatively small group of people in summer garb, surprised at their good fortune as they were visiting the Smithsonian.

We sat within yards of these amazing artists, closer than one could ever hope to be, as they danced for an hour in honor of the special exhibit, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music. They performed excerpts from the repertoire of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

So let me give credit to my husband for his good advice, applicable to all sorts of situations—especially to difficult moments often encountered in writing a dissertation.

Ease the pressure. Awaken your creative side and aesthetic sensibilities, or whatever your strengths are, and see what happens.  Oddly enough, doing something that at first might seem as if you are procrastinating and merely fleeing the hard work of writing can yield unexpected benefits, such as increasing your mental toughness.

Breaking open a tired writing project

When you return to your writing, you most likely will note greater mental clarity, quickness, and toughness, as well as an increased patience for your writing process. An improved mental and emotional state will help your writing come more easily.

If the perfect word, the right beginning of a paragraph, or the heart of the matter isn’t coming to you and you are twisting yourself into knots, just do something, even if it’s wrong. Doing something could even mean going to a museum. You might be surprised at what can invigorate an exhausted mind and break open a tired project.

When you have felt stymied by your writing, what breaks did you take that were particularly helpful?  I’d love to hear from you.

All good wishes,

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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A dissertation client said recently that he has been dealing with a lack of focus and low motivation.

In addition to writing a dissertation, he also teaches.

Sensing fatigue, I asked what the last few months had been like for him.

He paused and said, “There have been a lot of outside influences.”

He has had to travel a bit, but that wasn’t what was coming to mind for him.

Like many of his friends and family, he had been in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  For some, their homes had been damaged, and for others, including himself, there was a long period of no power and no heat.

And what else in addition to Sandy?  The Presidential campaign and election

The Presidential campaign that came before Sandy but ended soon after Sandy struck was raw and exhausting for many Americans. After months, even years, of the presidential campaign, my client was thrilled when the campaigning ended, but the campaign stopped with an abruptness, a suddenness that at first was disconcerting.

My client felt he personally had been in a battle during the fierce, ugly campaign.

But once the election was over, the silence was almost as unsettling as the campaign itself.

My client said that even though he had lost valuable time during the aftermath of the hurricane and also during the election, he had started to recover his footing.  He was tired, but he had started to produce some writing.

And now another calamity has upturned the lives of some of my dissertation clients, as well as many other people.

The unthinkable has occurred

This morning my client told me that midday this past Friday he registered news about a shooting but because of a deadline at work, he chose to put off getting the details.  At day’s end, he listened in earnest to the news reports and realized that once again there had been a shooting in a school, but this time the dead included beautiful little first-graders.

Since then, he said, he has been emotionally overwhelmed even though he has been listening to or reading only a few news reports.

The horrific shooting of the young schoolchildren and their teachers has been difficult to process for most of us. My client articulated the feelings of horror and helplessness that may sound familiar to you.  But he says he thinks his ongoing exhaustion and isolation may further complicate for him the emotional impact of the killings.

Over the last couple of months several clients have voiced concerns not only over their heavy work load, but also over the emotional stress and isolation they are feeling.

Time for yourself

The upcoming holidays and, for some, the end of the semester give many the opportunity to reflect on how to deal with this latest disaster.

And how you can deal with the loneliness and emotional stress you feel as you shoulder the difficult job of writing a dissertation.

More of what matters

Please give some time over the next few weeks to reflect on what really matters to you, not only in your work or dissertation, but also in your emotional life.  What is it that you need?  How can you have more of what matters to you?

All good wishes to 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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Time management matrix as described in Merrill...

Time management matrix as described in Merrill and Covey 1994 book "First Things First," showing "quadrant two" items that are important but not urgent and so require greater attention for effective time management (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not too long ago, when my adult son mentioned how busy his work and life have become,  my husband was reminded of an annual planning session he had attended at which a facilitator presented a workshop on how to organize your time. 

As my husband drew a diagram from that workshop, I realized that he was drawing time management guru Stephen Covey‘s famous matrix. 

 

Stephen Covey’s Matrix 

Stephen Covey groups the ways we spend our time into four quadrants:

 –1-important and urgent

–2-important and not urgent

–3-not important and urgent

–4-not important and not urgent

As my husband drew the diagram, he said, “The facilitator said you should attend immediately and with personal involvement to Quadrant I matters.” The facilitator’s words about urgent matters resonated with my husband because he always has more work than he can get done.  Everything is urgent.

 

Everything is urgent

In your life, as an academic, ABD, dissertator, professional writer—does that sound familiar? You’re grading papers, attending meetings, preparing classes or presentations, returning email, managing crises at home, and trying to keep up with all that keeps hitting you. As you rush frantically and lose sleep, you also try to engage in last-minute binge writing of your dissertation before the time you told your advisor you would be submitting your promised work.  

Not only had my husband remembered clearly what the facilitator said is assigned to Quadrant I– the urgent and important matters, but he also clearly remembered those matters in Quadrant IV.  The facilitator said that Quadrant IV contains matters that you could basically forget about or things headed for the “circular file.” In other contexts, Quadrant IV could include behaviors such as vegging out in front of the TV or hanging out at Facebook.

So that’s Quadrant I and IV.  What about Quadrant II?  Important but NOT urgent matters would go in Quadrant II. 

Not surprisingly, my husband said that had forgotten what the facilitator said specifically about Quadrants II.  That’s probably because my husband, like so many of us, has to focus on urgent matters. The stuff that never stops. 

 

What you need to meet your goals

What are the important matters contained in Quadrant II and why should we care?  Take a look at what matters are in Quadrant II:

–goal-setting

–planning

–building relationships

–exercising

–productivity

People who most often meet their goals do more planning, organizing, and anticipating. They work efficiently and productively, avoiding last-minute sprints in order to meet impending deadlines, and they honor goals of a healthy lifestyle and close relationships.

While you might be able to avoid some of the distractions and time-wasters of Quadrants III and IV, how do you ignore the unrelenting onslaught of urgent demands of Quadrant I so that you can spend more time with the important matters of Quadrant II?  

 

Controlling what’s urgent

Not everything is an emergency, and we can take steps to stay out-of-the-way of things that appear urgent. Whenever possible, avoid email, particularly before or during a writing session. Avoid such additions to your workload as more volunteering, carpooling, office projects when the work really isn’t your responsibility, and perfectionism that can lead to unwarranted revision and research on your writing project.

Let people know that you are turning off your email and phone during the time you are writing. That would be a bold, but empowering step, wouldn’t it?

 

10 tips that will move you closer to your writing goal

Here are more tips that will help you increase your focus on what is important and also help you move closer to your writing goal:

–Anticipate future demands and activities. Plan, plan, plan. 

–Make your schedule and stick to it.

–Plan do-able, timely deadlines which you meet.  Such a plan results in productivity.

–Prepare so that when you sit down to write, your subconscious has had time to work on the ideas.

–Include physical exercise in your life. (Check out previous blogs and upcoming blogs on the importance of exercise to your writing life.)

–Break out the outlines. If you don’t have an outline, make one. Have an outline in place to guide your writing session.

–Routinely, daily, go to a quiet place to write and to plan the next day’s writing.

–Set up an accountability factor. Ask your friends if you can mail them a chapter and then tell them when you will mail it.

–Email your coach with frequent updates on daily writing sessions.

–Keep an eye on productivity—it’s under your control.

It might be a small problem for you to push aside something seemingly urgent in order to plan and schedule writing sessions, but if you don’t do that, you’ll have the big problem of not producing text because you are running around as if your hair is on fire.

Your hair isn’t on fire.  Slow down, plan, and show up to write.

In the March issue of my newsletter Smart Tips for Writers, I wrote about Stephen Covey’s “Big Rocks” and how that strategy relates to your dissertation. Let me know if that issue never arrived in your inbox. If you aren’t signed up for my newsletter, you can take care of that at my website at www.nancywhichard.com.

I’d love to hear your ideas on urgent vs. important matters and how they impact your writing.

Best to 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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Getting more sleep is high on the Wish List, if not the To-Do list, of most dissertation writers.

And so it is with me.

I always mean to go to bed earlier than I do, and I have all sorts of reasons for what keeps me up, some good, others not so much.

As I argued in “Sleep on It,” a tired brain doesn’t give you your best ideas, so why not go to bed and let your brain expand, develop, play with what you have given it? Your writing process needs that down time so that your brain can add its unique perspective to what you’ve just written.

I may watch BBC World News at midnight, and I may make some notes to think about in the morning, but I don’t trust my critical thinking and judgment after a certain hour. 

To supplement my nightly sleep I would love to take a short nap at 4 pm, but the late afternoon time isn’t my own. 

However, maybe I should take back that time. 

The National Sleep Foundation advocates a 20- minute nap in the mid-morning or mid- afternoon to sharpen focus and productivity. And it’s important to limit the nap to 20 to 30 minutes. 

And if you need additional reasons to nap, a mid-day nap also helps your metabolism (did I hear “slim”?).

If you receive the wonderful and free daily INSIDE HIGHER ED   and/or TOMORROW’S PROFESSOR newsletter, you saw “Turn Your Zzz’s Into A’s.” 

 In that article, Allie Grasgreen writes about The University of California at Davis’s systematic endeavor to encourage students to nap.  The school sells packets with earplugs and an eye mask and offers a “nap map” for good places to nap.

I swear by my five- minute nap, which I can take just about anywhere (except when I’m driving or talking on the phone, of course), but a 20-minute nap does sound appealing, don’t you think? 

Could you fit in a short mid-afternoon nap to improve your focus and productivity?  There are all sorts of barriers we could bring up, but really, how hard would it be?  And what’s 20 minutes versus improved focus and productivity.  Aren’t they priceless?

My best to you,

Nancy

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

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I was poking around  the internet, seeing what peeps are suggesting about techniques to gather ideas. Lucky me– I came upon a discussion in answer to the question “What is the best way to gather good ideas?”

And, for a bonus, the discussants are IT people. Given the innovation and productivity within IT, some of their approaches are applicable to our work as writers. 

One response struck me because of the writer’s belief that the “brain works in the most amusing of ways.”  

The writer says that to gather good ideas she reads lots of texts and envisions “what if” situations.  She writes down ideas that she gathers through “what if’ing” and through brainstorming.

Then she sleeps on it to give her brain some down time to process and play with her ideas.

The sleeping on it also allows her to keep from being bogged down in the details. 

The next day she writes more, based on what her rested brain gives her, organizes the ideas, and adds a bit of “dressing.”

I have increasingly come to believe that a tired brain gives tired ideas.  Many people are stuck in the days of all-nighters and think they can soldier through and produce a great text at 4 am. 

Give your brain the opportunity to work in its amusing way. Sleep on it and come back to your work the next morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you gather good ideas?  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.nancywhichard.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

 

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 March is a long month – 4 ½ weeks.   And for some people, there’s a week of Spring Vacation thrown in! Whoopy! 

What kind of plan for writing do you want for March?  Days you are going to work, the amount of time you will work,  or how much you will get done?

 

Results first

Instead of focusing primarily on the amount of time you’ll put into writing,  focus on what you want to have done by the end of March.  What would be great and absolutely astounding and slightly unrealistic to have finished by the end of March?  What do you really, really want?

Perhaps a rough draft of the specific chapter you have in front of you?  O.k., then say, “By the end of March, I will to have  _______  done [fill in the blank with the name of your specific chapter] .” Write that down.

 
What’s it going to take?

What would it take to get a rough draft finished?  What would have to happen? 

This is the place to pull up the schedules and strategies that have worked for you over the last few months.  Is it setting a time each morning when you start working, no matter what? Is it pulling out the outline?  You know you have one.  Or is it reading the prospectus and making an outline based on what you promised?  Let’s use the best approaches, the ones you know that have worked for you.    


Writing equals or exceeds research

When you start to plan your writing schedule, does your mind immediately go to how much reading and research you need to do first? 

If you think of all the research you need to do before you’ll be ready to write, give yourself a limited amount of time that you can flip through a couple of books or articles. Make the amount of time less than you think is necessary, such as an hour. 

If you give yourself an hour to do a little research, cut that hour in half.  Flip through notes or a brief bit of reading for 30 minutes, and then write for 30 minutes.  Keep yourself in check by both severely limiting the amount of research or reading you’ll allow yourself to do and requiring that writing always equals or exceeds reading/researching/fact checking.

 

To face the challenges of March, adopt a more regular sleep  pattern

Yes, sleep. 

How long has it been since you went to bed at a reasonable time (midnight or even 11 pm)? If you want to get up and use your day, then you have to get to bed at night. Are you one of those people who drink coffee all evening and then wonder why you can’t sleep when you do go to bed? To ease anxiety as well as allow you to sleep at night, slow way down on the black tea or and coffee by late afternoon. This will take some effort, but the results are worth it. To remind yourself that you’re not drinking caffeine at night, put a box of herbal tea out where you can see it.

Get in place your results-first plan for writing and move on it—it’s March!

Bonjour Mars!

All good wishes,

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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