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 Whichard, Ph.D., PCC