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Posts Tagged ‘self-sabotage’

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

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August can be a time of scrambling

A friend who was taking her family on a trip to Europe was rushing to get everything done.  She said, “All I have to do is just get to the plane.”  I know what she means—what a wonderful feeling it is to settle in and stare into space, awaiting take-off (as long as you haven’t left a child at home, of course!  But that’s a different movie.).

For most of us, our looming deadline isn’t making the plane to Europe, but there is that sense of finality or urgency at fitting in everything we need to do over the next few weeks or days.

Maybe you’re moving, reinventing yourself, starting a new job (or going back to your same teaching job).  What minutiae swirl in your head as you try to focus on the chapter you’re writing? 

1. Put the Big Rocks in first.
A wonderful client reminded me this week of the time management story about the rocks and a jar.  Have you heard it?  Stephen Covey in his book First Things First describes a time management speaker using a jar and rocks as props for a talk.  The speaker asks the group how many rocks do they think he can get in the jar.  After the guesses are made, he proceeds to put the large rocks into the jar.  He asks if the jar is full.  The group answers that it is full, but of course, it isn’t. The speaker proceeds to add small rocks, gravel, and water

The point is that if he hadn’t put the big rocks into the jar first, then all the gravel and little rocks would have filled it and there wouldn’t have been room for the big rocks. 

Our take-away is that we should make a list of the large things we need to do, our big rocks—a big project, family time, exercise…– and then plan so that the big rocks are done first.

What is your gravel?   That stuff can fill up your time.  What are your big rocks? 

2. What are your 3 priorities today?
Each day brings its own crisis, but you can still have three priorities that get attention, even as you deal with the crisis of the day.

It’s hard to mentally hold on to all the things you need to do at this time of year, but if you write down the 3 most important things you must do today and put the time when you will do each of those things, you will feel a great deal of anxiety drain away.  Try it!  The 3 priorities may be the same thing as your Big Rocks, but they might not be. 

How can you make sure that your Big Rocks do make your list of today’s 3 priorities?  Practice.  Tell yourself that your dissertation isn’t some Big Rock that’s part of an interesting illustration.  It’s a big deal that you have to address every day in a practical manner—it’s one of each day’s 3 Priorities.

3. Make plans for following through
I’ve found that I must have visual reminders of how my day is planned to unfold and what I will get done no matter what—my 3 priorities– or I’ll forget.  I use large, colored sticky papers for my schedule and highlight my 3 priorities.  I stick my schedule in a couple of different places. I need to be able to remind myself that one of my priorities is coming up, so that I don’t self-sabotage by staying too long on something easy and blow right through the time slotted for a priority.  Written reminders are key.

4. Where do you have control?
As you think about all of the moving parts of your life—whatever comes next for you, your advisor, your department chair, the students, your feelings—the most difficult part may be controlling yourself. How do you want to frame the current chaos so that you can look at it in a positive way?  What do you want to tell yourself?

The time you have available to write may seem limited, but whatever time you have now is under your control.  You can choose to write in the 30 minutes or 1 hour that you’ve set for your dissertation or your journal article, or you can let the time slip away, while you run in circles.

Can you make your Big Rocks into your 3 priorities for today?  Make sure your diss is definitely getting a spot on your priority list and has a chunk of dedicated time in your schedule.

How about grabbing some big rocks and inscribing them? Maybe put them where you can see them on your desk?

I’d love to hear from you. 

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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Change is happening in the Washington DC area, not just in Congress, but here in my backyard.  Spring is here.  Tulips are pushing their way above ground.   The trees are dropping all sorts of little colored pellets on my deck and front walk. 

The first days of Spring are a great time to assess your writing habits and consider how they are working for you or against you.  It’s an opportune time for you to consider where change in your writing process might help you. 

Time to clean house.

You’ve probably been down this road before, deciding to make a change but not putting any muscle into that decision.  However, there are positive strategies that can achieve lasting results.

Most of these involve capitalizing on the power of habit. 

In December 2008, I wrote a post in this space called “Make Getting Started on Your Writing Easier: Top 5 Reasons to Develop a No-Kidding, No-Fooling Daily Writing Habit.”

If you were fighting the dissertation battle then, 15 months ago, you may have read my “top 5 reasons for developing a solid, robust, no-kidding daily writing habit.”  And perhaps you would have made changes at that time.  Then these last 15 months might have been different.  Maybe you wouldn’t have continued to sabotage yourself and expend energy resisting writing rather than putting your energy into writing.  

What if you stopped making excuses now?  How about committing to  writing every day, even if only fifteen minutes a day?  Before you back away and begin again with the excuses, consider how writing every day, preferably at a scheduled time and maybe first thing in your day, would increase your productivity and, most importantly, would have you writing. 

Where do you need to exert control and spend your energy? What can you do to help yourself be mentally tough?  I’d love to hear from you. 

Enjoy the season.  How about a change?

Best to you,

Nancy

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

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Now that Halloween is over, it hasn’t taken long for me to eat all of the left-over chocolate-covered raisins that the trick-or-treaters rejected in favor of Snickers.
 
Having all of these tidy little packages of candy in my house once again reminds me of the dangers of home.  It’s just tempting fate to stay in your house along with Halloween candy.

It’s also tempting fate to try to write your dissertation at home sweet home.

If you insist on writing at home, write as soon as you get up, just you, your cup of coffee and your computer, but no email. 

Where home sweet home often doesn’t work is if you’ve been teaching all morning, and you come home in the early afternoon with the hope of getting some writing done. Then what happens?  I know that a select few of you are as disciplined as tigers.  You rush in from work or teaching, sit down, bite off a chunk of research, and write ferociously for four hours and produce many pages. 

But most people, coming home in the early or late afternoon from work, feel they’ve done their work for the day.  If this is you, the couch and TV are likely more compelling than the dissertation.
 
If you want to write at home, but you can’t start a writing session first thing each day, one of my dissertation coaching clients has two great ideas:
1.  Unplug your internet
2.  Don’t immediately change out of your professional clothes when you get home from work

Unplugging your internet may sound severe, but eliminating temptation is smart.

And why stay in your uncomfortable work clothes after you get home?  If you  promise yourself that all you have to do is sit down and work for 45 minutes in those uncomfortable work clothes before changing, you may very well have rescued an otherwise doomed writing session.  Isn’t getting started the hardest part? 

 Good luck!

Nancy

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

 

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How was your writing today?

You couldn’t get a flow going today during your writing session? 

Some writing sessions are like that–you start off more slowly, maybe because you’re tired, it’s the end of the week, or maybe because you didn’t prime the pump, didn’t try to induce a good mood, or didn’t practice resiliency before you began the effort

Or perhaps you’re starting to see some success and you’re just a bit uneasy because you are thinking you may actually meet your deadline?

Once again, it’s time to practice resiliency. 

Remind yourself that this time there’s no backsliding—but be playful as well as firm. 

Laugh at the time you were so self-congratulatory for how well you were doing on a paper that you barely finished the project under deadline! 

Resiliency is a skill that you learn through practice. A great way to increase your resiliency is laugh at your foibles and shenanigans. Use your sense of humor and self-knowledge to fuel your writing session.

 Have a good weekend,

Nancy

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

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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.

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A dissertation client told me that that a couple of years ago her professor suggested they plan to publish together. But the graduate student could never get herself to devote even a day to work on this project.  She kept putting it off.  Now she feels like it will never happen. And why would the graduate student not take advantage of this offer?  She said that she was afraid that her writing couldn’t measure up to her professor’s view of her work.

What could possibly stop people from doing work that potentially could rocket them forward in their careers or personal lives?

Many of my dissertation clients have told me that when they were younger they breezed along, always getting good grades, being the whiz kids they knew they were, but then they’ve come up against the dissertation or even a great, but challenging opportunity.  Fearing failure or fearing to show that they might be less than perfect, they  putter along, doing a little work but never really getting down to it, never finishing, and never taking a risk.  

If you don’t want to let a big opportunity slip away, you might ask yourself how important is it to protect your dignity?  How important is it for you never to risk failure? 

If this is you, it’s time to get clear on what you’re missing out on and what you’re delaying in your life because of excuses and fear.

If you’ve used procrastination as a shield, how were you able to break loose?  I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to finishing and moving on!

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

P.S.  My newsletter Smart Tips is ready to go out. To sign up, go to my website — www.nancywhichard.com.  This issue is on procrastination.

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