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Archive for the ‘take stock’ Category

Dissertation writers tell me they often find themselves writing in chaos.  It’s not clear to them where they’re headed or how long it’s going to take to get wherever it is they’re going.

Occasionally a cultural ritual, like the summer vacation, is a marker that writers use to cut through the chaos.

The vacation can be something to aim for, a lighthouse, if you will. Paddling toward that lighthouse gives a direction. A limited amount of time adds a sense of urgency. Having a concrete goal adds clarity and motivation.

Put together a limited amount of time, a direction and a concrete goal, and you have the makings of a plan.  Nothing relieves stress or pulls you out of chaos like having a plan, unless it’s putting that plan into operation.

Some of my clients have a specific amount of writing they want to do, such as finishing the lit review before going on vacation.

One client says that she’s giving her committee what she has done before she leaves for a two-week vacation, but she’s redefined for herself what it is she will submit.

Her plan is to make a plan, a detailed plan, for the direction her work is taking.

Her approach is to work on the Introduction to clarify the argument. Then for the subsequent chapters, she is working through the argument.  She is stepping back to see where she is heading, making sure her argument flows,  chapter to chapter, with adequate support. She will also make sure she is adding the feedback and comments she has received so far from her committee.  She’s not working on surface issues—save that sort of thing for the end.

When she is back from vacation this concrete approach will put her in a good place to write more easily, eliminate the feeling of writing in chaos, and alleviate the stress factor.

From time to time as you write a dissertation, you need to step back to see where you are headed.  Take stock of what you have done and what you need to rework, as well as make sure you have a concrete plan to keep you on course for what is ahead. 

Is a vacation coming up for you?  This could be the time to check your course.  It also may be just the time to add a bit of hustle to your work.  Push a little harder to pull together your argument and to add pages of text.

From time to time, you may need to adjust your approach. 

What is the nearest marker for you?  How are you using it to advance your planning and your writing?

 I’d love to hear from you.

Happy June,

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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Recently a dissertation coaching client said she had made a choice which would give her more time.  That choice reminded me of Found Money. 

 

You know what Found Money is, right? 

 

 

Here’s an example:

 

I bought a pack of those special money envelopes that are in the card racks at Christmastime, and about 10 days before Christmas, I sent my nieces and nephews cash as their gift.

 

I had two or three envelopes left over, so I put them in a drawer.

 

Closer to Christmas, I took out those extra envelopes and, guess what, there was cash in one of them.  Yikes, could I have sent an empty envelope to one of the kids? How else would I have an envelope with money in it?  Favorite Aunt Status is at stake. 

 

After a hurried call to the mothers, I was reassured that no, all children had received cash from me.

 

I felt a little silly that somehow I had put money in an extra envelope. 

 

But the good news was that now I had Found Money.

 

 

 

As someone said to me, “Is there anything better than Found Money, especially at Christmastime?” 

 

 

 

Recently what reminded me of Found Money was that my client said she now she had more time.

 

How is the Found Time showing up in your writing schedule, I asked.  Hmm, not sure, she said. 

 

At Christmas I had spent the Found Money, even though it wasn’t a fortune, on something that I knew no one else would get me.  Something that I could remember that I had done for myself –sort of like buying my own Cupcake.  And it had come from the Found Money that I could have stuck in my billfold and frittered away on groceries. 

 And so here’s my take on Found Time and saying no: 

·        Once you say NO to something, you will immediately have more time. 

·        When you get more time, it feels like an unexpected gift that you can use any way you want to.

 

Something of value has opened up to you—how do you want to spend it?

·        Spend that Found Time where it will make a big impact.

·        Work on your dissertation during the very time that you would have been doing that old commitment.

·        Smile when you think how close you came to frittering away Found Time.

 

More time gives you hope, and hope gives you momentum and drive.  

 

Found Time or Found Money—which is of more value to you?  I’m guessing Found Time.  Use it or lose it.

 

Happy 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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Cover of "Thelma & Louise"

Cover of Thelma & Louise

Perhaps what is true for one of my dissertation clients is also true for you.  She says that sometimes a day will pass, and she hasn’t done any writing.

How do you use your time?  How are you spending your time?

Do those two questions mean the same thing? It seems to me that we all use our time one way or another, but the word spending suggests the value of time and the limited nature of time.

I see in my mind’s eye Louise, in Thelma and Louise,  driving her Thunderbird convertible purposefully down the desert road, mentally calculating what she and Thelma need as she plots their getaway. Thelma is slumped in the passenger’s seat. “How much money do you have,” Louise asks. Thelma distractedly pulls a few bills from her billfold.

Just as Thelma starts to say $60, the wind rips a 20 dollar bill from the passive  Thelma, who aimlessly revises their resources downward to $40.

If you’re like Thelma and Louise, you need to plan ahead a bit more. It’s hard to find more time or money. As Louise says, “We’re going to need more.”

So how can you  determine how you are spending that valuable resource of time and where are you going to find more?

 One of my dissertation coaching clients is planning a course of action that you might also try. 

She has chosen to track how she is using her time each day. Specifically she is going to keep track of each block of 30 minutes in her day by recording her answers to the following:

1. Where am I going?

2. What am I doing?

3. How long does it take?

What are you doing that is so important?

She wants to determine how much of her time is already scheduled. Why does it seem that she is always going somewhere, rushing here or there? Why does the activity or the responsibility take so much time?

Where is the time that I am going to devote to my dissertation?

She will be able to see the chunks of time when she could be writing. She thinks she has time that is available for writing if only she looks closely at how she is living 30-minute segment of her day.

Then what?

That found time will then be scheduled for her dissertation work—written into her calendar– and she will show up for that scheduled writing. 

Try it yourself– Track how you are using your time. 

Use a legal pad or an appointment calendar. How many chunks of time do you have in any given day that you can lay claim to for writing?

Challenge yourself

Write your dissertation in the time you have available.

I’d love to hear from you. What free chunks of time can you find in your day once you actually look for them? Now what will it take to spend those chunks on writing?  Write your dissertation in the time that you have.

Let’s talk!

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net

http://www.usingyourstrengths.com

http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com

nancy@nancywhichard.com

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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

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

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How often have you felt close to giving up completely on your dissertation?

I hear that statement most frequently among my dissertation coaching clients who are practically within a stone’s throw of finishing.

What could make it so hard to keep going? 

The outsider might think that during the long process of writing a dissertation, writers would have grown to self-confidently view themselves as experts.

The fact of the matter is that dissertation writers all too often aren’t encouraged to recognize or trust their expertise. The process is often riddled with self-doubt and uncertainty. 

Even in the best of circumstances, writing a dissertation may be one of the hardest tasks you’ll ever take on.  It’s made worse when an advisor offers little or no guidance or support. The worst stories I’ve heard range from advisors who are completely disengaged and  want nothing to do with the ABD student to advisors who seem not only to lack empathy  but also lack awareness of the effect of their sarcasm and volatile moods.

Since most ABD’s work with the same advisor for months, if not years, what looks for all the world like psychological abuse can take a toll on even the most resilient and determined student.

When dissertation writers are confronted by self-doubt and the desire to quit, it’s time to step back from the process.

As a dissertation coach and an academic career coach, I encourage my clients to view their experiences through various lenses.  This may sound Pollyanna-ish, but you probably can’t change the process, so why not change the way you look at it?

For instance, what might a future employer—even if the employer is not in your field of expertise—infer about you, based on your having a PhD?

The knowledgeable future employer will understand that you know:
•  How to bring the best you have to offer to a project and keep yourself in the game over a long period of time
•  How to manage an extended project, specifically an extended writing project
•  How to be politically savvy

This is just a start– What else have learned during this arduous process? 

When you are honest with yourself, you must admit that you are learning a great deal about stamina and grit as you write this dissertation.  The character strengths you are honing are perhaps just as important as your accomplishments in your field of study. What have you learned that will stand you in good stead after you leave the state of the ABD?

I’d love to hear from you.

Best,

Nancy

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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Does the end of August mean the start of a school year for you? Are you teaching this coming term?

My clients who are returning to teaching this fall are determined to learn from their past mistakes and also to build on their successes.  It’s great to hear their optimism as they plan for a productive year.  And they generously have shared some tips on how they plan to reach their writing goals this term:

1. Enjoy reconnecting with your colleagues and community.
 Have you been out of touch with other instructors and professors this summer? Have you felt isolated?  The first-of-the-year welcome-back meeting doesn’t have to be hokey.  Enjoy the spirit and settle in.

2. Feel grateful to be teaching.
Every fall, there are changes.  However, this year in particular, if you’re an adjunct or an instructor, you know that some of your colleagues from past years won’t have been given classes. If you are teaching this fall, you’re lucky. If you’re on the job market for a tenure-track job for next year, you are well situated. Be grateful.  It’s easier to get a job when you have a job. 

3. Use the structure of the school year to bolster your writing
Rather than going into the fall term thinking that you won’t get any writing done, practice what you preach.  What do you tell your students or advisees about getting work done?  Look at the schedule as a good student does. When do you have a free hour?  What are you doing with that hour?  When are you at your best?  Carve out a writing morning or afternoon and then make yourself unavailable to uninvited drop-ins and out of reach by phone or email. Put in your calendar the times for your writing sessions.

4. Let teaching feed your writing.
Teaching is compelling and consuming, with its daily demands and its enormous rewards of working with students. But it can also feed your writing. If you can teach your dissertation, do it.  If you can’t, watch for the unexpected connections that your students (and your brain) hand you while you are teaching.  Keep an upbeat, positive attitude, viewing your classes through a lens of gratitude for what they can do to further your writing. 

5. Say no to additional speaking requests and no to other optional opportunities
Whether you are working on a book or a dissertation, you have to make writing a priority.  Other opportunities will arise, and you will think that they are too good to decline, but how important can they be if they eat up your writing time?
My clients say that you’ll be asked to speak and sometimes those requests will be very tempting.  However, think about how much time it takes to prepare for a talk or lecture and possibly to travel. Think how much energy goes into the delivery, and then think how much recovery time is involved.  The adrenalin stops pumping and you start second-guessing how well the talk actually went and what you could have done better. 

Finish your dissertation or your book. Insure that you’ll be at the departmental meeting of your choice next year, feeling happy and relieved to have the current writing project over and done with. 

This term, let writing be top dog. 

Best wishes,

Nancy

P.S. Email me—what else do you need to do to make your writing your top priority?

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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Have you written a section or a chapter in your dissertation that during the writing you were engaged and even in flow, but later when you read it over, you aren’t particularly in awe?

In fact, you realize you’re just recounting a narrative.  Or basically writing description, and it isn’t even good description. It’s short.  It’s choppy.  It’s obvious.

As you read the chapter, you imagine your educated reader looking up from the text and mouthing those two scary words– “So what?”

What do you do?  Lots of hand wringing?  Lots of avoidance?

Actually, the question “So what?” isn’t such a bad one, provided you ask it before your reader does.  You want a more critical approach so what is your strategy?  What do you do?

If you want to arrive at a deeper meaning in your text, what questions do you ask yourself?

1.  Fill in the blank:  The point of this chapter is _________.  Work at getting succinct language that completes that sentence.

2.  Ask  “What’s urgent here?  What is critical?”  No matter what else the reader might get from your chapter, what do you think is absolutely crucial that the reader understands?

3.  List the key terms that come to your mind about the chapter.  If you’re trying to come up with a concept, name what comes to mind as you read each paragraph.  Get as many terms down on your list as you can and then go through and see which words resonate with you.  Choose the top key terms and see which ones capture what you’re trying to describe or gives additional meaning.

4.  Look at what else is out there—what else has been written that you can draw on?  Continue to read and turn this over in your mind.  Give your brain a little time to make the clever connections it can make when given a chance.

5.  Give yourself a deadline—by what day will you have your new approach or new outline that has a clear, critical frame? Give yourself time to work, but also know that you will come up with something that’s good enough or perhaps even spectacular by a definite day.

6.  And cheers for you—you asked and answered “So what?”

When you find that what you’ve written doesn’t make the grade, step aside and look at it as if someone else had written it.  What questions would you ask that someone else to elicit a new, critical view of the text?

Keep writing!

Nancy

P.S. How are you doing on establishing a powerful writing habit?

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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