Most of us in the U.S. turned back our clocks this morning, giving us one extra hour.
Now you may think I’ll say that everyone writing a dissertation had one extra hour today to write. Not me. Not this time.
As I read the Washington Post this morning, a little earlier than I usually do on Sunday mornings, I was struck by the gift of an hour and what was available to me—I read the Post’s “Picks” and “Can’t Miss.” But when I was writing my dissertation, if I had received the gift of an extra hour, I doubt that I would have spent it doing what I really wanted to do. If I knew then what I know now, I would have.
Writing a dissertation can move us into survival mode. We may stockpile every minute, push ourselves beyond what’s reasonable, prop ourselves up with caffeine and sugar, and push away others, compounding the isolation.
You will finish your dissertation, but in the meantime, you need a life.
If you have children, you probably feel as if you’ve been taking something away from your family. They’ll be o.k., but spending time with the people you love nurtures you. And it may actually help you think more clearly and creatively when you go back to your dissertation.
If you have friends that you haven’t contacted in umpteen years/months, this might be the time.
If religion or church-going has ever been a part of your life, then maybe this is the time to stop in again. If you were ever going to pray, this is the time for that, don’t you think?
So when might you plan some time to spend with others? How do you usually spend your week-ends? If you’re like many dissertators, you plan to work on the week-end, but the time gets away from you. And by Sunday night, most likely you realize that you didn’t spend the week-end doing anything you particularly enjoyed either.
What if you planned your next week-end to accommodate both dissertation writing and doing something you enjoy?
Recently, a client decided that she would work Saturday afternoon and then take a long bike ride on Sunday with her friends. I pressed her, asking her what would lock in this idea, what would make it absolutely happen. By our talking about how it could be and how she would feel once Sunday night arrived, the plan came to life for her.
Here are a few things that I hope you will remember.
1. It is important to talk about how something is going to change.
2. Put very detailed plans into writing and then review that plan throughout the week.
3. Make sure that your detailed plans include specifically what you want to accomplish in your work session.
4. Do not let the work session bleed into the time for the rest of your life. Follow my client’s lead: work on Saturday; hold part of Sunday for what you want to do.
5. And do whatever it takes to include others.
Starving yourself when you’re on a diet makes you mean, and probably shortens the life of the diet.
Depriving yourself while you write your dissertation can stunt your emotional and spiritual growth, creating a mean and maybe lonely person.
And deprivation could make it easier for you to abandon the diss before it’s finished.
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