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Posts Tagged ‘self-regulation’

Is there a writer who isn’t lured and waylaid by the distractions of the internet and email?

Is there a writer who hasn’t written about those same distractions?

How about you? How well did you do today? Did you stay on task and reach your writing goal for the day? Or did procrastination and Facebook win out?

My dissertation coaching clients are trying to use the Nothing Alternative—that is, during the time they’ve set aside to write, they write… or do nothing. They tell me, though, that the Nothing Alternative strains their willpower. They do better if they remove the temptation of the internet.

Several clients are using SelfControl software or the Anti-Social app to lock them out of the internet.  This week I heard about another program—Freedom.   

The client who told me about Freedom said that even though he has used it successfully, he frequently has to talk himself into setting it up.  And why would he resist a successful strategy? Because once he has it up and running, he will have robbed himself of his excuses not to write. It’s write or do nothing.

My client is in good company.

Writer Nora Ephron says that every morning she spends several hours “failing to make a transition” from reading the morning newspaper to working and being productive. To help to fight her urge to procrastinate, she sets up Freedom on her computer to lock out the internet. 

Seth Godin, the master marketer, blogger, and author, is also a fan of Freedom. He compares using Freedom “with being cornered with nowhere to turn.” And the advantage of being cornered, he says, is “that it leaves you . . . unable to stall or avoid the real work.”

Novelist Zadie Smith speaks knowingly of the lure of the internet. She says, “When I am using the Internet, I am addicted. I’m not able to concentrate on anything else.” To give herself time to write, she uses Freedom, but she still has to put her phone (on which she can get email) “in another part of the house, it’s pathetic. Like a drug addict. I put it in a cupboard so that I can write for five hours.”

My clients ask the same questions that Smith asks, “Is it me alone? Am I making it up? Does nobody feel this way?”

Writing is hard work, and most of us yearn for distraction, especially something as mindless as the internet and email.  Lock it all up—give yourself  some freedom!

Happy Writing!

Nancy

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

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 Mental toughness, self-control, willpower, grit— I turn again to these compelling strengths. Why? Because distractions, especially electronic distractions, complicate the writer’s life.  The struggle for self-control over distractions takes up more and more of your mental space. 

What can you use to free your mental space in order to concentrate on your writing? What can help you maintain self-control, be mentally tough, and not overwhelm your willpower?

You know all too well that willpower often just isn’t enough to get you started on your writing and also keep you off of Facebook.

In the book Willpower, co-authors Roy Baumeister and John Tierney argue that what they call precommitment can protect you from the uncertainties of willpower. For instance, if you have set a specific time for writing, and you practice starting at that same time for a couple of weeks, you will have less need to depend on willpower to save the day.

The so-called Nothing Alternative is such a precommitment.  When you use the Nothing Alternative, not only do you decide ahead of time that at a certain time of day, you will sit down and write, but you also decide ahead of time that you will do nothing but write.   

My dissertation coaching clients have responded positively to the Nothing Alternative and have some great suggestions for implementing it. Two of my coaching clients are especially enthusiastic about the Anti-Social app and the SelfControl program.

 1) Anti-Social

If you routinely get email that you think you need to respond to throughout the time you have set aside to write, you may find it harder and harder to write and even give up the writing altogether in order to answer the emails. 

 The Anti-Social application for macs allows you to shut off the social part of the internet and email while you are working on your computer. You can “be anti-social” for any amount of time. 

 To turn off Anti-Social, you have to restart your computer and according to my client, you “feel crappy if you restart your computer just to get into email.” 

Precommitting to this program for a certain amount of time helps you to conserve willpower for emergencies.  

2)  SelfControl

Another way to implement the Nothing Alternative is to use the SelfControl software.

This free software asks you to list the internet pages that you want to block, such as email, Facebook, specific online newspapers, and a few pages that you most often visit.  It’s your choice.

If you need the internet for research, you can still visit Google or other specific pages that you need.

Once you set the timer, for that specific length of time, you cannot get into anything that you have blocked, even if you turn off the computer.  My client says, “If you feel less motivated during that time, you can stare into space for a minute, but you can’t get onto Facebook, so you might as well work.” 

 

 

Using such programs helps you stay committed to your writing and lets you conserve your willpower.  

I would love to hear what your strategies are for conserving willpower and for using willpower effectively. 

Happy Writing!

Nancy

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

 

 

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When I’m in line at the grocery, I read the latest celeb magazines.  If there’s an article about Tiger Woods, I’ll read about his wife and his yacht and, of course, his relationship with his father, but I’ve never been interested enough to take the time to see what are golf’s and Tiger Woods’s hold on so many people.

However, a column by New York Times writer David Brooks gives me a new perspective on Tiger Woods and also on Brooks himself.

According to Brooks, writers, in particular, “get rhapsodic” over Woods’s ability to focus, partly because “Woods seems able to mute the chatter that normal people have in their heads.”

Brooks contends that in our over-extended, overwhelmed lives, Woods is “the exemplar of mental discipline,” “stone-faced,” “locked-in, focused and self-contained,” “self-controlled.”

Woods “achieves perfect clarity, tranquility and flow.”  There!  Now I’m on board! “Flow” I understand.  In flow, he is using his top strengths and talents, but he is also being challenged.  He can be at one with his game when he is in flow, unaware and uninterested in the world about him.

Brooks, who is no slouch and obviously has been in flow many times himself, confesses that his own focus as a writer is far from perfect.

He describes his restlessness and inability to stay focused, in contrast to that of Woods’ intense focus, saying “As I’ve been trying to write this column, I’ve toggled over to check my e-mail a few times.  I’ve looked out the window. I’ve jotted down random thoughts for the paragraphs ahead.”

Brooks also suggests that his readiness to yield to distractions are fairly normal.  For sure–I prefer to check email rather than steel myself to surrendering to the writing, but I wonder what would it be like, if, like Woods seemingly has, I could silence those gremlins in my head for good and never be distracted by them.

What would it be like to step into a writing challenge and yet be perfectly calm?  To breath regularly and to hear nothing–no negative chatter rising to the deafening level of a rock-concert?   I’ve had those moments of calm focus.  I’ve been in flow when at I’m at one with my writing, and I want more of that.

What would it take to have more of the steeliness that Woods has?

What do you think?  Does Woods give us a model for mental toughness, the kind of mental toughness it takes to finish a dissertation?

I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to flow and mental toughness,

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

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This morning as I was reading a paragraph here and there in Newsweek, I swear I saw the words “put off finishing his dissertation” rise off the page in 3-inch-tall block letters, or so it seemed. 

Procrastinating on one’s dissertation isn’t unusual, but to get your name in Newsweek because what you’re doing to procrastinate is so important is unusual.
 
The person in question, theology graduate student Alastair Haines, says he has joined the Wiki Bible Project (http://www.newsweek.com/id/141516) as a way to put off finishing his dissertation. 

The 22 project contributors are creating “an original open content translation of the Bible’s source texts,” which number about 30,000.  It sounds like exciting work to have a hand in translating texts that have ruled the lives of so many people over the centuries, as well as to be part of such a controversial undertaking.  Some biblical scholars say the project could produce an “inaccurate, bias-filled mess.”  What theology graduate student wouldn’t want to go toe-to-toe with biblical scholars?

“Working on the Wiki Bible Project as a way to put off finishing a dissertation” has to get this week’s award for best excuse for Procrastinating on My Dissertation. 

When most of us procrastinate, we aren’t having nearly as much fun as this Wiki contributor.  Most ABD’s that I know would gladly clean toilets instead of writing their diss. And we certainly don’t get our names in Newsweek for what we’re doing instead of writing.

If you’re going to procrastinate on writing your diss, then make what you do instead be the most fun you could possibly imagine. 
 
Even though I am not writing a dissertation, I still allow time-wasting, boring tasks assume such grandiose proportions that they consume whatever discretionary time I had for writing.
 
I recently discovered a novel way to procrastinate.  I’ve started cleaning the walls of my upstairs hallway, but the incentive is what I use as the cleaner. Recently a cabinetmaker told me about magic eraser cleaning pads.  You can clean your walls with the help of a magic sponge and some water. Who would have guessed? So now I sabotage my plans to write by using the amazing eraser sponge to clean that wall, which, not coincidentally, is directly across the hall from where I should be writing at my computer.

I’ve heard many people rationalize and say that when they’re procrastinating they’re actually doing valuable work and that they aren’t wasting time.  I’m skeptical.  I know how easy it is to get carried away. In fact, I’m a case in point.  I’ve gone beyond cleaning that one wall.  I’m starting to move down the stairway now– there are lots of marks on that stairway wall. I’m too engaged in this project to see it just as a bit of cleaning.  I know myself too well and self-regulation is not a top strength. The task that had been something to do during a writing break has taken on a life of its own. 

I need to regroup!

How do you procrastinate?  I’d love to hear from recovering procrastinators.  What do you do to keep on track with your dissertation?

Write today–

Nancy

nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com

 

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