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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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The people I coach are terrific, bright, accomplished. Each is writing a book, a dissertation, or a thesis. Many are published writers. Many have won awards for their college-level teaching. 

Their intellect and accomplishments amaze me. 

But . . . (yes, there’s a “but” here) . . .  they are struggling with their dissertation.  With dismay, they say that they are procrastinating.  They are sabotaging themselves. And often, they aren’t fully aware at the time that they’re setting themselves up for failure.

One client, whose story echoes many others that I hear, told me that she can tick off accomplishments that she is proud of, but she resists and procrastinates on working on her dissertation.  Each day she means to write, but she spends the day thinking about how she should be writing, even as she does less important work, spending time on whatever crosses her desk or her mind. 

She wonders if she’s addicted to avoiding the writing.  She wants to do the right thing, and that would be to write, but she indulges in procrastination, feeling almost as if the dissertation repulses her. 

Repelled by your dissertation?
Even approaching the dissertation can start to seem impossible.  I’ve had the diss described to me in various ways, but all of the metaphors used to describe it seem to be along the lines of a lumbering, disgusting beast that sits in the corner, watching TV and smoking, and it grimaces and growls whenever anyone approaches.

Do you catastrophize?
Do you see yourself as totally inept, not good enough, someone who doesn’t know enough and who will never be able to pull out of this hole?  Do you see your dissertation as something so beastly that you avoid it at all costs? Catastrophizing can make you so anxious that it is nearly impossible to push past those feelings and approach that seeming beast of a project.

Time to re-engage with your work ethic.
You’ve had a strong work ethic in the past or you wouldn’t have arrived at this place in your academic career.  That work ethic was one you honed over the years, starting from the first time you faced up to a task that seemed bigger than you.  That was when you discovered what it would take to be mentally tough. 

What would it take to be mentally tough … again?
To be tough, mentally tough, takes more than a one-time flare of courage.  It takes discipline—doing something hard again and yet again. It also takes a plan. A plan will remove the uncertainty of when you are going to work. 

Use your past successes as a touchstone.
The client who says she is proud of past accomplishments needs to pull up those accomplishments and keep them visibly in front of her.  They can be a touchstone.  In fact, she said that at one point in her life she had totally landscaped a rocky, hilly lot and turned it into a lovely yard and garden.  She told me how she had removed rocks and hauled dirt in a wheelbarrow, and pushed and pulled, and conquered that beast of a lot.  As I listened, I saw in my mind’s eye how that lot must have looked originally and how, step by step, with no allowances for an aching back and no going back, she transformed the land. 

My client surely had taken pictures of the way that rocky, hilly lot looked originally and during the process as she transformed it.  I challenged her to tape pictures to her  computer of that lot at various stages of change.  If she had hauled rocks, she could surely write a paragraph or a page. 

Looking at those pictures and thinking what she was like during that time would halt the catastrophizing and ward off anxiety.  She would remember the hard work that produced such amazing  results. 

Then, because she was putting in place a plan that would help her stay mentally tough and disciplined, she would  have the pictures in view to help her start her next writing session.

Mental toughness will change the way you approach your dissertation.
Just as is true with my client, your past successes aren’t flukes—you earned each and every one through hard work.  Some may have come more easily than others, but each success built on the past.

To move forward on your dissertation, you need to pull on what you know that you are capable of doing because you’ve done it before.  This will take mental toughness, but with courage, discipline, and planning, you will change your mental landscape. 

And you will be writing!

 All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  A great step toward being mentally tough is to put your dissertation as your priority. Need any help in figuring out how to do that?  I’d love to hear from you.

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

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As you attempt to write your dissertation, do you find that your feelings sometimes get in the way?  What feelings do you find yourself dwelling on?

Among my dissertation coaching clients, guilt in various forms is high on the list:
•   Guilt for not being further along in the work
•   Guilt for taking too long to finish
•   Guilt for wasting time
•   Guilt for denying your spouse, child, partner, parents your time and attention
•   And even guilt for ever starting the dissertation in the first place.

Guilt not only takes up space and slows down the writing, but it encourages self-defeating attitudes and actions.  For instance, some dissertators tell me that because they feel they have let too much time go by and aren’t farther along in the writing, they try to make up for lost time by letting the work take over evenings and week-ends.  That leads to guilt for not having time for people in your life.

Guilt is toxic, contaminating more and more time space and time.

What can you do to manage such noxious feelings?

1.  Commit to a new habit of daily writing.
You can’t change the past, but you can commit to a specific number of hours at a specific time every day that you will be your dissertation time.  My Boot Camp clients tell me that developing a daily writing habit has given them the muscle they need to push distractions and those worrisome feelings aside.

 In fact, being in Boot Camp helps you physically and mentally to remove yourself from a place where you dwell on your feelings. 

2.  Daily writing is invigorating; procrastination isn’t.
If you have scheduled the time you will write, you won’t waste time and energy fighting internal battles of whether you’ll write today. Some dissertation clients tell me that they have the bad habit of putting off writing until late in the afternoon, but all day they seem to be involved in some way with their dissertation.

If you procrastinate over a long period of time, you’re allowing your feelings to control you.  And you’ll end up exhausted and burned out.

3.  Designate two days each week as the weekend.
The weekend may be Saturday and Sunday, but it could also be Tuesday and Wednesday.  Commit to having some down time where you can enjoy or deal with the rest of your life.   You will also be giving your brain the chance to be idle, the best way for it to provide you with insights.  Time off from writing can also be productive time.
 
4.  Write from an outline or compose bullet points.
Our emotions can flood us when we feel stuck during a writing session.  All too often we feel stuck when we’re trying to compose because we’re trying to write perfect sentences.  If you free yourself from thinking about stylistic issues, you will be less likely to open the floodgates of those negative emotions.  Follow the outline you made for yourself and, for now, don’t worry about how inelegant the writing sounds. 

Even better, compose bullet points during a writing session.  Let go of complex sentences and the best choice of words. Just go for content.  Know that somewhere down the line you can flesh out the bullet points, but for now you’re managing feelings and, hallelujah! you’re producing pages.

If you have a tip for managing the negative feelings that tend to derail a writing session, I would love to hear from you.

Happy writing,

Nancy

P.S.  If you want to jump start your writing this fall, drop me an email.  Boot Camp and coaching are two great ways to help you set writing goals and work toward them.

Also, if you haven’t signed up for my e-newsletter, Smart Tips for Writers, drop by my website at www.nancywhichard.com and sign up.

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

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Putting others first is a strength, but using that strength casually and even irresponsibly can lead to procrastinating on your dissertation.

If one of your top strengths is the ability to love and be loved, you can be assured that you won’t be lonely in your old age.  Probably you won’t be lonely before you ever reach old age.

Since the ability to love and be loved is one of the five strengths that most likely will lead to happiness or satisfaction with your life, how could that strength ever get you into trouble?

Clearly, you could love the wrong person too much, but what if you have a supportive family?  Only a crabby, mean-spirited dissertation coach would ever suggest that you could show too much love to your family.

Here’s a case in point:  I send my clients a welcome packet when they begin coaching with me, and one question I ask is “What usually motivates you?”

Often the answer is “others motivate me,” as in:
•  Grandma is lonely, and it’s been a long time since we went to see her, even if this is a busy time for me, or
•  Of course, I’ll head up the drive for membership for our ______ (fill in the blank:  church, community pool, Habitat for Humanity group).

Others matter, and for some people, others come first, even when it’s a detriment to your meeting your dissertation deadlines.

If this sounds like you, try looking at your ability to love and be loved through a different lens:

1.  Excuse to dawdle?  How happy could you make your immediate family/significant other if you were to meet your dissertation deadline and actually get ever closer to the finish line?  What is your family giving up in order for you to dawdle on your dissertation?

2.  Family as human shield?  Impossible?  Are you at least sometimes using your family as an excuse to avoid your work?

3.  Leverage your ability to love and be loved.  Is perseverance not a top strength? Instead of organizing trips, dinners, and family Facebook pages, consider leveraging your ability to love others in order to persevere with your dissertation.

4. Promise to celebrate a milestone in your work with your family later on. Have you asked your family what they want?  Does your mother or your extended family in Ohio really require you to come to the various family reunions/weddings/birthday gatherings and thereby eat up the last precious weeks of August?

5.  Show your love by saying no to 3 requests this week.  Use the time gained to work on your dissertation.

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  What deadlines have you set for yourself over the next four weeks?  Want some suggestions?  Go to www.nancywhichard.com or www.usingyourstrengths.com.

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

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When the end of your dissertation is in sight, what will you do?

If you’re struggling just to get started on your dissertation, the question “What will you do when the end is in sight” must sound rhetorical at best and silly at worst.

Nevertheless, I’ve learned from my clients that minefields await writers when the work nears an end.

Slacking off. When the work is going well and you’re on schedule to wrap it up soon, do you decide to take the day off?  Or cut back on the amount of time you put into your daily writing sessions?  Some writers tell me that they fight the tendency to coast toward the end, giving rise to their bad habits of sloughing off and taking far too long to wrap up the final chapter or even the last few bits.

Celebrating too soon.  Did you play in music contests or recitals when you were young?  Did you play well through the difficult sections, but somehow always messed up just before the end?  Had you become so impressed by your performance that your overconfidence allowed you to hit a sour note?  Were you rushing to finish and not paying attention?  You never know what might happen to your project if you don’t stay focused.  Hold off on the celebrations until you’ve got the work out the door.

Determined to be perfect.  If your signature strength is Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, do you put yourself through hell until you think your work is perfect?  Is it very difficult for you to say and to accept that a chapter or a page is good enough and move on to the next section? Are you sometimes nearly paralyzed by your perfectionism, particularly when a project nears its end? Striving for excellence is commendable, except when it keeps you from finishing a project.

Perfectionism not only slows down your productivity, but it can continue to disable you with the possibility of fairly dire consequences.  A Canadian study of senior citizens found that more perfectionists died during the study than people “with more reasonable self-expectations” (http://www.miller-mccune.com/news/perfectionism-linked-to-early-death-1229).

People who coast at the end of a project or those who become overconfident throw unnecessary roadblocks in their own way.  However, with a resurgence of self-knowledge and mental toughness, they can make the necessary corrections and follow through with the dissertation to its completion.

Perfectionists, on the other hand, may be unable to crank out the last chapter or it may be so difficult for them that they slow almost to a halt.  If this sounds like you, ask yourself how many people will ever read your dissertation.  Besides your committee, maybe two other people?

If you’re a perfectionist, your dissertation will probably never rise to your expectations.  It’s not worth putting yourself through all of this pain. Hold your nose and email your dissertation to your advisor.

Time to move on!

All the best,

Nancy

P.S. Are you trying to wrap up your writing in the next month or six weeks?  What would make it easer to get this done?  I’d like to hear from you.  For more tips, check out my website at www.nancywhichard.com.

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

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How was your Sunday?  Productive?  Or another day with only good intentions?

If you don’t have much to show for the day, would you say that anxiety did you in?

You know the signs of anxiety.  You know when you’re getting high-jacked by a fear of one kind or another commonly associated with writing.  For me, the sign is a heavy-duty fluttering in my chest—like a ton of butterflies just flew into my body.  Ever feel that?

Fortunately, when I’m having physical signs of anxiety when I’m trying to write, I usually know how to deal with them. Yes, my first inclination is to eat.  I don’t suggest you go that route.  But if I can kick the food lizard in the teeth, I know that what will help is to breathe deeply or roll my head first to one shoulder and then to the other.

But if you’re like me, even if you have great awareness when a case of nerves is about to derail your writing, you may not pick up on specific behaviors that could be your undoing.

Sometimes your brain can get lost in wild-goose chases on Google or in connecting and reconnecting on Facebook.

It’s those things that we do almost unconsciously that can do us in.

You think you’ve locked up, tied down, turned off all those distractions that you know you’ve made for yourself in the past. You’re not doing your crosswords, you’ve hidden  your knitting, you’ve stopped watching Netflix, and you avoid turning on the TV to watch the cable news shows.

But then someone hands you a book and says, “Do you want to read this book?  It’s really bad—great trash.  It’s helped me wind down at night.”

A 600-page, easy book.  Unfortunately, once you start the book, it doesn’t leave your mind.  What you started with the intention of reading a couple of chapters at night has become a full-blown distraction.  One part of your mind says, “Reading this book doesn’t matter and what happens to these characters doesn’t really matter.”  But another part of your brain is spinning, “Oh, I have to find out what happens to these characters,” and you keep reading late into the night.

The next day you find yourself Googling the characters.

There’s a part of your brain that wants to soothe you and protect you from fear and anxiety.  Finding out what happens to those characters feels so much better than writing your dissertation.

Does any of this sound familiar?  What are you putting between yourself and your diss?

It’s a constant struggle, isn’t it?

Until next time,

Nancy

P.S. Dissertation boot camp can help you replace those insidious behaviors with a robust writing habit.  One participant said that she was really surprised at how much it had helped her.

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

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What if writing each day on your dissertation was a habit?  What would you gain from that?

Do you know the power of habit?

Here are the top 5 reasons for developing a solid, robust, no-kidding daily writing habit:

1.  You would not lose time and energy fighting the internal battles of whether you would write today.

2.  Your writing would come easily to mind at random moments during the day, giving you the opportunity to have new ideas and to make new connections.

3.  You wouldn’t have to find time to write—the time would be there, available, ready-made, dedicated to your work.

4.  You would replace distraction and self-deception with a solid, reliable writing habit.

5.  You would be writing on your dissertation every day.

Too often when ABD’s are isolated, working alone and with little accountability to anyone, a daily writing habit is far from reality.

Just as often, newly minted PhD’s working in their first appointment have lost the writing momentum they once had and are now procrastinating on their own writing.  They think they have no time for their research projects, or they’re making up excuses not to write.  They may distract and even deceive themselves to keep from writing.

I’m putting together some strategies that should put a habit in place that will give you the muscle you need to push distractions and self-deceptions aside and start a new day in your writing life.

Many writers who have been part of dissertation boot camps have high praise for the results and give their experience rave reviews.

If you’re interested in a virtual boot camp, you might want to check out my website at www.nancywhichard.com or sign up for my free e-newsletter.  I have an article on boot camps in the next issue that will go out right away.  Sign up at www.nancywhichard.com.

I’d love to hear from you if you have some ideas or strategies that can help make writing each day a habit or if you’re interested in gaining an intense, daily writing habit.

Best wishes,

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

 

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