Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘procrastination’

A famous New Yorker Magazine cartoon illustrates procrastination and resistance against things you don’t want to do. A man is talking on the phone to someone wanting to meet with him, and the man says, “How about never—is never good for you?”

“How about never” speaks to many writers. When will you feel like writing? How about never?

Today I listened to procrastination researcher Dr. Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University in Ottawa speak about a difficulty you may have, the procrastination in starting a task that you don’t feel like doing, such as writing. At times he, too, has to drag himself to write, but he says, “It doesn’t matter how you feel. Just get started.” He adds that he is not saying “just do it”;  rather, if you can find a way to start a task, even if you stay at it for only five minutes, you are likely to return to the task the next day.

Dr. Pychyl says to fit into the larger pattern of your day the tasks that you would ordinarily procrastinate on, such as writing or exercising. Recently I spoke with a young woman who runs each day. And even though running has been part of her life for some time, she still has to work at ignoring her mind chatter that tells her to take a day off.

How does she run even if she does not feel like it? She says that the fewer the uncertainties about running, the more likely it is that she will run.

She is on to something. Dr. Pychyl says that you can get caught in uncertainty, even with things you say you want to do.

Eliminate the uncertainty about when to run

My runner friend does not wait until after she gets home at the end of the day to run because of the many distractions. It’s too easy, she says, to flop on her couch in front of her TV and never get up.

Likewise, she does not wait until she gets to work each day to decide whether she will run that day. For her mental health, she leaves her desk during her lunch hour. That hour is the time she plans to go to her to run.

Incentives always help

She has extra incentives that make it easier for her to go to her gym:

  • The gym is a pleasant place with jazz playing in the locker room
  • The gym is only a short walk from her office

But getting to the gym still takes willpower. And willpower is not always enough.

Use a daily ritual to avoid resistance

Knowing that on some days she will feel resistance, she has put in place a daily routine of small steps that lead her gradually to her goal of running.

The daily routine has become a ritual that gives her the focus and momentum she needs to move forward toward running, and she has woven the steps of the ritual in among her regular office duties.

The small steps in her ritual also keep her from thinking about potential momentum-stoppers, such as showering at mid-day, the pain she sometimes feel while running, and the other activities or work she could be doing instead of running.

Her ritual is simple but effective.  It starts at 10:15 a.m. after she has been at her job for more than an hour:

–10:15 a.m.:

She takes breakfast to work–cereal/milk/juice–and eats at 10:15 a.m. so that she will not feel hungry when she walks to the gym. Eating this light breakfast at mid-morning every dayalso triggers her focus toward what will come next. With each step she becomes more engaged with the upcoming task.

–11:30 a.m.:

At 11:30 a.m. she starts drinking water to hydrate.

–11:45 a.m.:

At 11:45 she breathes deeply and stretches briefly in the work break room.

–12:05 p.m.:
By 12:05 she is walking to the gym, reminding herself that in one hour she will be back at her desk.

–At the locker room:

She feels increasingly confident and eager to run as she starts to put on her running clothes. She says that once she has laced her shoes, her feet know what to do. At that point, she is  at big milestone, signifying that she has hit each of the smaller goals or steps along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And she anticipates the rewards of  greater mental clarity and feeling healthier that running always gives her.

The keys to her success

1. Determining that she will use her lunch hour to run relieves her of the stress of deciding daily when or for how long she will run.

2. Starting and carrying through on the steps each morning break down her resistance and mentally prepare her to run.

3. Her plan varies little. Delivering daily on the steps  has become a habit, indeed a ritual. The ritual is reassuring and increases her clarity of thought. She feels that something is wrong if she doesn’t follow through on each of her planned steps.

And how could a ritual help you?

As a writer, you, too, will know the pleasure and benefit of reaching your goal of writing every day if you:

1. Determine the time of day and where you will start writing.

Avoid waiting until late in the day when you are tired and when distractions have their greatest allure.

2. Determine how long each writing session will be.

Make the length of time realistic and do-able;

3. Develop a series of specific steps that you take at determined times, such as checking that you have the text you want to work on and that  you will have a cup of tea ready soon. Then take a few deep breaths and meditate for a few minutes. Or stand at a window and feel the sun on your face. Each step will help you build momentum and a readiness to work;

The fewer the uncertainties and decisions, the more likely it is that you will write.

 

What habits or rituals do you have in place that help you avoid procrastination and remove uncertainty about writing?  I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

A caller asked if I had ever coached someone who had become stalled on a house renovation project.  My answer was no, but what came to mind was how similar all big projects are.   How difficult it can be to keep going.  How crushing the project can become. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Let’s say it was you who started the renovation project. You envisioned the changes you were going to make. You put together a plan to accomplish those changes.

And you took on this project in part because of what you wanted to prove to yourself.

Following through on such a commitment takes courage and resilience.  I’ve seen someone with these qualities accomplish an amazing home renovation project.  He almost single-handedly built a large room onto their house. He’s an accomplished man, but he’s not a carpenter, nor is he an architect. Nevertheless, over many months, the structure came together, and it’s a lovely addition to their home.

Completing such a project must be more than satisfying.  I would guess that the end feeling would be relief coupled with enormous joy in the accomplishment.

But if the renovation project, just like a stalled dissertation, is yours and if you’re stuck, re-starting takes courage and a willingness to look with new eyes at what this project will require from you.

Here are the five steps to help you restart:

1.  You need a plan, the more detailed the better.  A plan, with specific details, will guide you, and it will also be a way of keeping track.  It’s easier to keep going when you can check off items on a list or a plan.

2.  Make realistic, manageable goals each and every day or work session. Short-term goals and next steps keep you focused on the present.  And that’s where you have to work.

3.  When you accomplish the day’s goal, stop for the day—it may be counterproductive to push yourself beyond a reasonable stopping point.  Stopping when you’ve reached a realistic goal gives you the strength to come back another day.  If you go beyond the realistic goal, you start to risk burn-out or exhaustion. Exhaustion makes it much harder to return to the project.

4.  After you quit for the day, acknowledge yourself for the courage it took to come back to the project yet another day and to do what you said you were going to do.  Big Gold Stars!

5.  Draw on that feeling of renewed courage and the surge of joy to start your work another day.

Embarrassment, discouragement, and shame are likely to accompany getting stuck on something as open and visible as a home renovation or building project. Having one’s failure on public display can be brutal.  But the dread of being found out when a failure isn’t so visible, as in being stalled on a dissertation, is also brutally hard to bear. 

Life’s too short to live in dread or shame. You have a choice. I say get started on that detailed plan, plot your first step, and then take it.

Are you stalled on a dissertation, or have you been stalled?  What is your next step?  I’d love to hear from you.

All good wishes to you,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
http://www.nancywhichard.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

Read Full Post »

Writing My Thesis

Image by Trinesh Champaneri via Flickr

Perfectionism gives you a perfect excuse never to write.

Perfectionism not only slows productivity, but it also makes sure that your dissertation will never meet your expectations.

 
Put up with the messiness of writing

You have to go through the stage of writing “abominably repetitive, colloquial sentences,” as a dissertation client once described the early stages of writing a draft.  Abominable sentences in early drafts are part of the writing process.

 

Go for content

The perfectionist spends time crafting beautiful sentences but runs into trouble developing ideas.

Focus on putting into the early draft that content that you have rolling around in your brain, and give much less thought to form.  That exquisite prose you have read in the finished dissertations of others or in the articles written by your advisor came about through multiple revisions.

If you spend your valuable time crafting lovely sentences in an early draft, you will kick yourself later when you ruthlessly have to strike those same sentences because they add nothing important. Buckle down and write.


Share your work before it’s ready

Commit to a specific time when you will send a section to a colleague. Then pat yourself on the back for bringing a dose of reality into your dissertation process, and say, “This isn’t great, but it is what it is.”    Ask for feedback, if you can, or just get the boost to continue writing that sharing your work will give you.  It will move things along for you far more than if you keep struggling alone, trying your hardest to perfect an early draft. 

Face up to the perfectionism that has hamstrung you. 

Do you need some help in gathering your courage?   Do you need accountability to make a change?  Drop me an email.  I’d love to hear from you.

The best is yet to come.

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.nancywhichard.com
http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

Read Full Post »

Are you the person in the cartoon who in setting a date for a committee meeting says, “How about never?  Would that work for you?”  Is that the attitude you have toward your dissertation?

When you have a big project—whether it’s writing a dissertation or a book or planning a big event—do you throw all of your energy and time into resisting the work?

You resist by putting the hard, anxiety-producing work second and putting the most ordinary task first, and letting it drag on.  Or you may do something that does not need to be done right away, such as editing an announcement or a committee report or writing a letter of recommendation.

When you’ve finished that straightforward, undemanding but time-consuming task, you then think that you should celebrate because you finished something.  And of course after you celebrate, you don’t feel like diving right back into another project, the hard job, the work that you’ve been avoiding.

You’re never going to make headway on the important work by putting it second or by saying to yourself “How about never?”

You’ll never make progress until you surrender to it.

Just give yourself over to it—no holding back.  If you don’t let your big project take precedence, it will never get done.

And never means never.  Will that work for you?

Procrastination is the topic in my upcoming e-newsletter “Smart Tips.” I’m also offering a special bonus that you could use.  Go to www.nancywhichard.com to register.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

Read Full Post »

An ABD student wrote to me about her advisor’s generous rewriting of the dissertation text.  According to the student, the advisor doesn’t change the thought, only the language.

The ABD student recognizes that the advisor’s writing is superior to her own, Her question is if the advisor has rewritten a lot of the language of the dissertation, is the ABD student’s dissertation still her own? And is this a common happenstance?

I agree that this advisor is amazingly generous and that the student is incredibly lucky to have such a responsive advisor.  I’ve had many clients who complain that their advisors mark up their drafts with little more than where to put commas.

The two or so clients whose advisors did some rewriting were glad to have the rewritten text.  In fact, when, down the road, one of those clients started to feel lost, I suggested that he go back and read what his advisor had written.  There was much to be learned in the advisor’s writing.  Not the least of which was the confidence in the student and the interest in the student’s topic that the rewriting suggested.

As might be expected, my clients also weren’t sure if they could use the text written by the advisors as their own, and so one of them bravely asked.  The advisor said yes. (I think the advisor assumed his language would be adopted.) If this is your problem, please ask the advisor if you can use the language as written.

If your advisor replaces your language with hers, I can see that you might feel your revision process is truncated.  It might even raise questions in your mind about how you can learn to write if your process is limited in this way. As for how you can best learn to write academic discourse, you can learn by writing and rewriting and rewriting again—at the request of your advisor—but the down side might be that you would feel anxious and uncertain in trying to interpret what the advisor actually wanted you to do.

Another way to improve your skill as an academic writer would be to follow the model offered to you by your advisor.  Analyze her discourse—her use of words, her sentence structure, the argument.  Put your text side by side with hers and look for the specific differences.

The dissertation is more about learning than it is about producing a completely original work or an amazing contribution to your field.

Some of my clients have procrastinated submitting early drafts to the advisor because they know they can’t write as well as the advisor.  Well, duh! Advisors are tenured, published, and have been through this writing and rewriting and editing process umpteen times.  Their use of language shows what they’ve learned.

If you would rather your advisor give you more open-ended questions, such as “What do you mean here?” you can always ask for that kind of response.  If you have a good relationship, she will most likely give you what you ask for.  It will take a lot of courage to say that you’d prefer to use your own language, but if it’s important to you, speak up.

I would be curious why an advisor might be so generous as to rewrite part of the student’s text.  It would be interesting to have a discussion with the advisor about her style of responding to writing.  I’ll bet she’s trying to give you something that no one ever gave her — specific examples on how a certain sentence/idea/paragraph could be better stated.

Readers, if you have a thought you’d like to share on this topic, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

In addition, if you are one of those people who procrastinate on sending a draft to your advisor because the draft isn’t perfect, I’d like to hear about that, too.  Procrastination is the #1 problem among dissertation writers.

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com

 

Read Full Post »

Even though you may have a stated intention of working on your dissertation and making steady progress, you do everything and anything to sabotage yourself.  Could this be you?

If  this sounds familiar, read on.

A dissertation client is having great trouble moving forward.  Every week when we talk, there’s been another obstacle which has kept her from meeting the weekly goal. 

What gets in her way is that she discounts all of the success she’s had that got her to where she is now.  From what she has told me, I know that for ten years she has been moving ahead in her academic life, but she routinely discounts any academic accomplishment or even the stamina that it’s taken for her to keep on this difficult path. 

She’s doing all-or-nothing thinking. 

Because she doesn’t have her PhD, none of the work along the way matters.  She made it through her qualifying papers, made it through 3 or 4 years of courses, got her master’s, and all the time has continued to work in a demanding job.

But none of it matters. 

She understands intellectually how a person can dismiss past success, but she thinks she doesn’t dismiss it because she intellectually understands how a person could do this.  But she does it. 

She continues to distort her experience.

Without acknowledging how hard she’s worked and how that work has brought success, she makes it incredibly difficult to make steady progress toward her PhD.

Giving yourself credit for each success, no matter how small, helps you gain momentum and ultimately move into flow.  If you distort your experience, you very likely will make procrastination the usual approach to your daily work. With procrastination your first response, you waste time and energy. 

Your work is hard enough without handicapping yourself. 

How about making a list of your successes?  Want to share them?  I’d love to hear what you conveniently forget about yourself.

To your best!

Nancy
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com

P.S. Read more about procrastination in my newsletter Smart Tips. Go to www.nancywhichard.com to sign up.

Read Full Post »

You’ve been working hard on your dissertation this summer, honing your process, becoming surer of your argument, and thinking about the end. And the end is definitely in sight.  Yay!!

A couple of clients who have just gone through an unexpectedly bumpy patch right toward the end of their work made a suggestion to pass on.  They said, “Keep your eye out for complacency!”

When your work seems to be coming together, complacency can creep in, sabotaging your momentum. 

The complacency gremlin will encourage you to take a couple of mornings off or to start later than usual.  It will egg you on, pushing you to open a couple of emails and then a couple more. 

You’ve worked hard to put structures in place to support you.  Don’t let them slip and slide and let you down.

3 Strategies to Block Complacency:

1.  Most writers eventually come around to thinking that mornings are when they do their best writing.  If you have found success during the morning hours, be absolutely faithful to your morning routine now.  No excuses.

2.  Do not open your email before you begin to work—go to your document, open it, and jump in.  Don’t read even one email before you’ve put in your time writing.

3.  Watch for the urge to take a break when the writing is going well.  When you’re feeling in flow or starting to feel productive, don’t take a break.  See complacency for what it is—self-sabotage.  And dissertation sabotage can happen at any time.
 
One client says that when she starts to feel complacency creeping in, she tells herself, “Don’t even think about breaking.  Work for an hour, and then we’ll talk about it.”

Sounds like that might work! Be vigilant; be tough.

Have you felt complacency sneaking up on you?  I’d love to hear how you’ve handled it.

I also hope you’ve subscribed to my newsletter.  If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Smart Tips at www.nancywhichard.com.

Until next time,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach
www.nancywhichard.com
nancy@nancywhichard.com

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »