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,
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