Did you think you had much of your shopping done for the holidays, but now you can’t find key presents? Are you wondering where that stocking- stuffer stuff is? In the multiple piles of boxes that you have around your bedroom and basement? Did you really buy them…or maybe not?
Did you schedule your holiday gathering for your extended family during the busiest week of December? How can you walk around the usual family dynamics at these gatherings and not get testy?
And now there are last-minute meetings or final conferences at school? And, of course, you haven’t finished your grades.
What will help this week go a little better?
1) Make sure you have all commitments (meetings, conferences, deadlines) written down in your calendar—and make sure your calendar is accessible. Too often the big things don’t go into your calendar because you know you won’t forget those, but then as you look back over your week you don’t see that you spent two hours in a meeting and three hours in conferences, and you wonder what the heck did I do with all of my time?
2) What is your 24-hour goal? Write your 24-hour goal at the top of the schedule for each day. Twenty-four hour goals are the small but important goals that you set for yourself to take action on during a 24-hour period of time. These are the non-scheduled tasks and goals that you are committed to do. One 24-hour goal may be that you will work with edits for an article or you will edit a paragraph of the dissertation chapter. Look at your calendar for the bits of open time and claim those bits of time for your 24-hour goal.
3) Don’t burden yourself with thoughts of the impossible. Block visions of the must-do lists of all that you have to do over the next three months. It sounds silly, but too often you allow yourself to think that you have to do all these things now. Then you open yourself to feeling that you are ineffective and slacking off when you’re really doing so much.
4) Don’t compare your house and relationships and work to others. Do you have the idea that there’s this perfect person who has the clean, uncluttered house, and of course it’s beautifully decorated for the holiday? The perfect person also has a spouse/partner who jumps in and cleans. The perfect one didn’t put off grading and so she isn’t sweating because now her grades are due and she is behind.
When you are overwhelmed, do you think, “Oh, so and so has it all together. Why can’t I?” At those moments, you need that inner best friend to sneer at you and say, “Really? Really?” If you need help in dispelling the image of the perfect person, then imagine her at her worst moment. Image her screaming at her child. Not so perfect, right?
5) Avoid conflicts that come up too often at family gatherings. Avoiding those conflicts takes time and planning. If you’re the only one who brought wrapping paper and you’re in the back room wrapping gifts, how will you react when someone asks you if you’ve had a busy week? And someone will ask you that. And you know someone will ask how you’re doing on your dissertation. Plan ahead. Are you the only academic? Or the only person struggling with a dissertation? Have a Chinese wall between you and the folks who think that what you do is odd. Of course, you could wear a shirt that says, “Don’t ask me about my dissertation.” But if you don’t want to be quite so obvious, then have an if/then plan in place: If she says “x“, then I will do “y.” And what is “y”? Bite your tongue, smile, walk out of the room. And keep wrapping those presents. Yes, you did have a busy week.
And at the end of the week, acknowledge yourself for keeping your 24-hour goals, for imagining the mythical perfect person at her worst moment, and for smiling and simultaneously biting your tongue.
Put your feet up and be grateful that the marathon week is over.
Relax and enjoy your holiday.
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com