Posts Tagged ‘plan’

The New Year at its most powerful is a time for reflection and a time to think about where you want to put your focus.  The holidays are often jam-packed with travel, planning, buying, eating, interacting, negotiating, and not much quiet time. The first week of the New Year may reveal that it’s harder to focus than you had thought it was.

On the first coaching day of the New Year among those dissertation coaching clients who showed up as expected, I also had a client show up unexpectedly—she had forgotten that she wanted to start a week later. On subsequent days the schedules of a couple more clients unexpectedly conflicted with their coaching calls. The first day or so of starting a new schedule or returning to a routine after a busy holiday can make for a bumpy ride and a feeling of loss of control.

While my holiday began with the usual hurry-hurry pace, by Christmas Day I had moved into the best part of the holiday–the familiar gift exchanges, special meals, and the less familiar travel to a new home of a loved one.

The most different part of my Christmas holiday was going with my whole family to Manhattan on Christmas Monday. The crowds both at Macy’s at Herald Square and at Rockefeller Center skating rink and Christmas tree were enormous, but fun, jolly, and relaxed. We joined the cold-night sauntering of the crowds down Fifth Avenue, oohing and ahhing over the window displays at Tiffany and Bergdorf Goodman and the light shows and illuminations on the tall buildings.

Celebrating the holiday with my family and also with this huge, unhurried crowd of friendly strangers heavily bundled against the night’s cold was not only relaxing, but it was also a way to reset my frequently frenzied focus. I could concentrate on what was there to be seen and to be experienced. I lost myself in the moment, enjoying the city at its most beautiful. 

Having those few hours not only to be unplugged, but also to feel transported and intensely engaged in a sensory, beautiful experience gave me the pause I needed to come back to my work with a desire to improve my level of focus and concentration.

To help me sharpen my focus in this New Year, I’m giving myself time each day to pause. I’m setting aside an hour each day where I have the choice on where to place my focus.

I also realize how much I need to have experiences of beauty and wonder in my life. Reading has always given me those kinds of experiences, but increasingly my reading is for my work or has chosen by someone else. Recently I happened to read Téa Obreht wonderful novel The Tiger’s Wife, which created a world that beckoned me to re-engage for days and weeks to unravel webs of images and secrets and relationships.

Knowing that I’m better in many ways–focus, concentration, motivation– if I’m reading a novel that engages me and asks something of me, I’m also giving myself permission to spend some time looking for such novel to read each month—one that engages me and could very likely leave me awestruck

What do you need to have in your life in this New Year? Do you also need something that will boost your focus and concentration in 2012?  I’d love to hear what you think.

All good wishes to you for 2012,


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach




nancy @ nancywhichard.com

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Have you heard of a “showrunner”?

Writers in the TV industry are now expected also to manage—or to have the skills and strengths that would allow them to manage.

According to John Wells, Writers Guild of America West president and writer/producer of E.R., Third Watch, and West Wing, it is almost impossible to be just a writer anymore in television.

Instead of “head writer,” the path for the writer is to control the material and make decisions, thus be a  “showrunner.”

Similar to the showrunner, you are managing your career, and an important step on the ladder of your academic career is writing the dissertation. How are you managing the important project of writing your dissertation?  When will you close and deliver the project?

To deliver the dissertation:

1. Use the process and mindset of a showrunner/ Project Manager.
2. Exercise the strengths and skills of a showrunner/ Project Manager.

What strengths do you think an effective showrunner/ Project  Manager has?

Consider these:

1.  Leadership
2.  Judgment and critical thinking
3.  Self-control/self-discipline
4.  Diligence and perseverance
5.  Creativity and ingenuity

What happens if you look at  your dissertation project through the lens of leadership?

A showrunner/Project Manager has the job of  providing leadership in these areas:

1.  Planning
2.  Scheduling
3.  Organizing and holding to a timeline
4.  Collaborating with team members
5.  Working with superiors/bosses
6.  Managing a budget
7.  Closing the project

How can you encourage and motivate yourself to get things done?  How can you organize tasks to make following through more of a given?

Along with writing content, make sure you are managing your project:

— Closing the project depends on planning, scheduling, and organizing.

–Exercise your strength of working with others.  Don’t hide out to avoid all personal contact with advisors or others who can help you in the process.

— Consider the costs.

You may not be managing a $26-million-dollar budget for a TV show, but consider what it costs you not to make and meet a schedule.

Writing a dissertation is a great time to practice the strength of leadership.  How are you running your show?

I’d love to hear from you

All good wishes,


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach

Read Full Post »

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 Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

Read Full Post »

Want to feel calm, even fulfilled, while increasing your productivity?  And meet a dissertation deadline?  Read on.

Recently, I blogged about how a client achieved greater productivity in her writing. 

She and I had collaborated over what steps would most likely yield success.  Sticking to her plan gave her the success she wanted–she met her deadline by increasing her productivity. 

The 4- step plan that she followed could also help you achieve greater productivity and meet a deadline:
1. Write each morning– maximize the morning time
2. Regulate breaks–stick to the schedule
3. Exercise at the end of the day
4. Each evening, journal about the day’s wins and clarify the goals for the following day.

And there’s more!

My client discovered two huge, unexpected added benefits to following through on the plan. 

1.  One terrific benefit was that she felt fulfilled at the end of each day. 

Each morning, she knew what she wanted to accomplish that day.  Each evening, she could tick off what she had accomplished, and surprise, surprise—she felt fulfilled.  No remorse or guilt.  She had done the work she said she would do.  She felt content and happy at the end of the day. Fulfilled.

2.  A second terrific bonus was that even though she was writing to meet a deadline—typically, a high-anxiety time for her– her stress levels were very low. In fact, she felt a great sense of calm

She says, “I was putting in the hours. And I’d think, ‘Oh, I’m not stressed’ and the next day it would occur to me again, ‘I’m not stressed’.”

She had written toward deadlines before and had not expected that this time would be so different. The lack of stress, the feeling of calm while she was writing, and the fulfillment she felt at the end of the day were wonderful gifts. 

But well-deserved gifts.  There was no wishful or magical thinking.  She had a realistic plan, and she followed through each day.

And she is closer to getting on with her life.  Hurray!

I’d love to hear from you—what plan have you put in place that is giving you the success you want plus added benefits?

This week, as a special gift for signing up for my Smart Tips e-newsletter and to underline my hopes that you will soon be getting on with your life, I will give you a 30-minute call. Go to my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my Smart Tips e-newsletter.


Your International Dissertation Coach

Read Full Post »

Making goals for an entire year seems to me to be self-sabotaging.

Are we talking about making a big change that you’ll be so disciplined that you’ll do that action you’re contemplating every single day for the next year?  That’s too much time to deal with. 

Chunk it down.

If you decide where you want to be in 3 months, it seems far more manageable.

So where do you want to be in 3 months?

1.  Write it down and post it where you will see it.

2.  Put it in your calendar.

3.  What help do you need? Ask for it.
• Help from friends?  Partner?  Family?
•  Alliance with a writing buddy?
• Coaching?  Hire a dissertation coach?

4.  What resources do you already have? Pull them up.
• Advisor?  Mentor?  Friend whose opinion you trust?
• What is that resource you’ve been meaning to dip into?  Now is the time.

5.  What’s the first step?
• Use your top strengths–your signature strengths– to make this step easier
• Make the first step realistic and manageable

6.  Go my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my Smart Tips newsletter. You will get support and tips that you can use.  I’ll also send you a gift.

Here we go!

Until next time,

P.S.  Plan for 3 months of successful writing.   

Read Full Post »

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. 

That’s crazy.

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.

If you have a second, please drop by my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my free e-newsletter.

Read Full Post »