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Posts Tagged ‘thesis’

As May is ending, many of my clients have now received graduate degrees or are participating in graduation ceremonies now and will receive their degrees later this summer.

Congratulations on the hard work that has gone into achieving this honor.  You deserve enormous credit for persevering through the uncertainty and frustration of writing a dissertation or thesis while balancing  the work with  home and, often, a full-time job.

Savor these moments and days and celebrate with those you love.

All the best to you!

Nancy

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

 

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Dissertation writers tell me they often find themselves writing in chaos.  It’s not clear to them where they’re headed or how long it’s going to take to get wherever it is they’re going.

Occasionally a cultural ritual, like the summer vacation, is a marker that writers use to cut through the chaos.

The vacation can be something to aim for, a lighthouse, if you will. Paddling toward that lighthouse gives a direction. A limited amount of time adds a sense of urgency. Having a concrete goal adds clarity and motivation.

Put together a limited amount of time, a direction and a concrete goal, and you have the makings of a plan.  Nothing relieves stress or pulls you out of chaos like having a plan, unless it’s putting that plan into operation.

Some of my clients have a specific amount of writing they want to do, such as finishing the lit review before going on vacation.

One client says that she’s giving her committee what she has done before she leaves for a two-week vacation, but she’s redefined for herself what it is she will submit.

Her plan is to make a plan, a detailed plan, for the direction her work is taking.

Her approach is to work on the Introduction to clarify the argument. Then for the subsequent chapters, she is working through the argument.  She is stepping back to see where she is heading, making sure her argument flows,  chapter to chapter, with adequate support. She will also make sure she is adding the feedback and comments she has received so far from her committee.  She’s not working on surface issues—save that sort of thing for the end.

When she is back from vacation this concrete approach will put her in a good place to write more easily, eliminate the feeling of writing in chaos, and alleviate the stress factor.

From time to time as you write a dissertation, you need to step back to see where you are headed.  Take stock of what you have done and what you need to rework, as well as make sure you have a concrete plan to keep you on course for what is ahead. 

Is a vacation coming up for you?  This could be the time to check your course.  It also may be just the time to add a bit of hustle to your work.  Push a little harder to pull together your argument and to add pages of text.

From time to time, you may need to adjust your approach. 

What is the nearest marker for you?  How are you using it to advance your planning and your writing?

 I’d love to hear from you.

Happy June,

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

 

 

 

 

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Are you one of the lucky ones with Spring Break in the offing?

Have you been thinking and hoping and waiting for Spring Break?  Finally, you say, I’ll make some headway on my dissertation or book.

Visualize how it will work when you have none of the usual demands that take your time and distract you during each day.

It may be a bit of a challenge to be organized, to guard your time, to find the balance between thinking you have to research this and write that.  Feel a little scary?  Are you starting to put the stressors in place just at the moment when the usual demands may let go?

What would make for a more relaxing and a less stressful writing?
What are the fears?

Just at the time when you see some daylight, here come the fears.  Try this: See yourself as a cartoon character and imagine a little balloon above the character’s head. Put those scary thoughts up in that balloon—the fears that give you that debilitating tightness in your chest. Every time one of those thoughts or pains come up, think of the words or fears and mentally write those words in the balloon.

You’re bigger than those words-in-the-balloon. Put those fears in their place.

Sail on, Silver Girl

A client once said that sometimes “it feels like I’m strong and sailing forward like ‘Sail on, Silver girl; Sail on by’ in that Simon and Garfunkel song,”  but then everything just piles on.

Guard your Spring Break.  People may know where to find you and start making requests that are hard to ignore.

For your Spring Break, find quiet moments, with no stressors where you can sail on.
That Hotel Thing

Maybe it’s time for that Hotel Thing.  If you need solitude and the boundaries that seeming-to be-out-of- town will give you, why not find a good deal for 2 nights in a hotel? Bring snacks, but be sure you can get room service for that evening when you’re in flow, but you’re hungry for something more than Trail Mix.  That’s no time to tramp around, trying to find a cheap eatery.

Bring your dissertation coach’s phone number, but leave all of your other phone numbers at home.

Give yourself an evening to settle in and to tame your surroundings. Feel at ease and comfortable with starting gradually.

Ah, just writing about solitude and co-existing with no other living creature allows me to relax and breathe deeply.
A Retreat with a Friend 

Some writers combine a writer’s retreat with reconnecting with friends or being with like-minded people.  Consider renting a beach house or going to a Bed and Breakfast with a friend or two and setting up compatible writing schedules.  Having someone to walk with before dinner sounds pleasant.

 

Accountability

My dissertation clients primarily hire me to provide accountability.

Why not combine your plans to write during Spring Break with Dissertation Boot Camp/Writer’s Retreat?  Boot Camp, or at least my version, includes 3 coaching calls over two weeks and short, daily check-in’s via email. And if a client is having a week-end retreat at a hotel or in another hidden location, I’m glad to schedule a coaching call on the week-end or at some random time to help get the writing off the ground and keep it going.

Being accountable to one other person who isn’t your friend, your mother, or your spouse can be very important.  No drama, no complications. A similar dynamic is probably at work in organizations like Weight Watchers.

If results count, find a way to include accountability during your Spring Break.

If you have been longing  for some time alone, with no appointments  or  scheduled must-do’s, go ahead and take some time off.  If you are one of the lucky ones with Spring Break, seize the opportunity and dedicate it to your writing.  I would be glad to help you create a productive and relaxed writer’s retreat.

And if Spring Break isn’t in sight, take a long weekend.  Remove yourself from everyday life and give me a call.

I’m on your side. 

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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 March is a long month – 4 ½ weeks.   And for some people, there’s a week of Spring Vacation thrown in! Whoopy! 

What kind of plan for writing do you want for March?  Days you are going to work, the amount of time you will work,  or how much you will get done?

 

Results first

Instead of focusing primarily on the amount of time you’ll put into writing,  focus on what you want to have done by the end of March.  What would be great and absolutely astounding and slightly unrealistic to have finished by the end of March?  What do you really, really want?

Perhaps a rough draft of the specific chapter you have in front of you?  O.k., then say, “By the end of March, I will to have  _______  done [fill in the blank with the name of your specific chapter] .” Write that down.

 
What’s it going to take?

What would it take to get a rough draft finished?  What would have to happen? 

This is the place to pull up the schedules and strategies that have worked for you over the last few months.  Is it setting a time each morning when you start working, no matter what? Is it pulling out the outline?  You know you have one.  Or is it reading the prospectus and making an outline based on what you promised?  Let’s use the best approaches, the ones you know that have worked for you.    


Writing equals or exceeds research

When you start to plan your writing schedule, does your mind immediately go to how much reading and research you need to do first? 

If you think of all the research you need to do before you’ll be ready to write, give yourself a limited amount of time that you can flip through a couple of books or articles. Make the amount of time less than you think is necessary, such as an hour. 

If you give yourself an hour to do a little research, cut that hour in half.  Flip through notes or a brief bit of reading for 30 minutes, and then write for 30 minutes.  Keep yourself in check by both severely limiting the amount of research or reading you’ll allow yourself to do and requiring that writing always equals or exceeds reading/researching/fact checking.

 

To face the challenges of March, adopt a more regular sleep  pattern

Yes, sleep. 

How long has it been since you went to bed at a reasonable time (midnight or even 11 pm)? If you want to get up and use your day, then you have to get to bed at night. Are you one of those people who drink coffee all evening and then wonder why you can’t sleep when you do go to bed? To ease anxiety as well as allow you to sleep at night, slow way down on the black tea or and coffee by late afternoon. This will take some effort, but the results are worth it. To remind yourself that you’re not drinking caffeine at night, put a box of herbal tea out where you can see it.

Get in place your results-first plan for writing and move on it—it’s March!

Bonjour Mars!

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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Image by tambrieann via Flickr

Do you feel that you’re like that woman in online advertisements who seems to be turning in one direction, but then all of a sudden, even while you are looking at her, has turned and is now going in an opposite direction?  Do you need something holding you and your intentions together?

You need a linchpin—the pin that locks a wheel in place or the critical element in an argument or in a system that ties everything together and makes it all work.

Where is the support or the critical element that keeps you and your writing on track and making headway?

When I was talking recently with a dissertation coaching client, I realized that she had taken the major steps to put a linchpin in place, but there was still more to be done if it was to perform critically.

Her daily schedule is peppered with many different activities, commitments, meetings, responsibilities, volunteer work. 

In the middle of her daily schedule, written in boldface, is the name of an undergraduate class in which she has enrolled.  She is taking the class voluntarily, and she loves it.

She’s a bit embarrassed to admit that she’s doing so brilliantly in the class when she is making only modest progress on her dissertation. 

But she is clear about why she took the class.  She says that she wants to prove to herself that when something is required on a regular basis, she can indeed do the work and do it well. This class has the making of a linchpin.

The class not only gives her a routine, but it also gets her to campus. Her hope had been that she would go to the library and work, but after the class is over, she goes home and lets down.

Before she knows it, the afternoon is gone, and along with it the time she could have put on her dissertation.

It’s curious how we can easily make a misstep or take the wrong road.  But with a dissertation, everything is fixable.   

Given that she is very clear about why she wanted to take the class, she has everything she needs in order to regroup.  In order for her to get some work done, she needs to stay on campus and not fall back into the beleaguered grad student mentality. Rather than let down and lose her momentum, she can make use of the mindset, energy, and good mood that she has when she leaves her class.

She has already made the commitment to take a class that would get her to campus. The next critical step is to take advantage of the location.

You do so much that is right.  For the most part, you set yourself up for success.  You may have the linchpin almost in place.  However, like my dissertation coaching client, you may need an added measure of support and a bit of a shift for the linchpin to fall into place.

What is your linchpin?

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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You’re frustrated that it is taking so much time to get to the dissertation finish line. 

Do you minimize your efforts and withhold any sense of accomplishment for the work you’ve done to get this far?  Each week you look back and dismiss your work “Is that all? Well, really, that wasn’t good enough.”

 

Is it all or nothing for you?

Here are three approaches that may be of help in beating back that all-or-nothing mentality

 

Practice an old virtue

Are you impatient with how long it takes to accomplish a significant piece of writing?  Impatient with how long it takes to do something big? 

With never enough time, we may feel that patience is a luxury that we can’t indulge in. We whip ourselves to work faster and to produce more, without acknowledging ourselves for the work we have accomplished.  Practicing patience encourages us to work steadily and moderately, rather than throwing ourselves into a wildly exhausting, desperation move to meet a deadline.  

To remind yourself that patience has a place in your life as a writer, try something that might remind you of your mother.  Think of something that your mother would encourage you to do on a regular basis, something you would resist, but when you finally did it, you would grudgingly see the benefit.  I’m thinking of something small that you could try, like improving your posture.  Every so often, say, once an hour, throw your shoulders back, raise your head, and take a deep breath.  Let that action serve as a reminder of the beneficial results of doing something patiently, consistently.

Slow and steady.  Little by little.  Patience.

 

Add a new strategy

Set a 24-hour goal for yourself. Is it hard to value the small steps you are making and what’s possible in the short-term?  Put your focus on a manageable goal for each day, rather than the goal for week’s end.

Ask yourself what writing goal you can do within the next 24 hours.  What one thing?  Whether you have four hours a day or one hour a week to accomplish the goal, think about what is reasonable for you to complete in the amount of time that you have.  Write your 24-hour goal in a very conspicuous place, such as on your white board.  

Then the next day ask the same question of yourself — what one thing can I do within the next 24 hours?

Be sure to keep a record of your success in meeting the 24-hour goal.

 

Put a better routine in place

Recently I received an inquiry about my two-week Boot Camp that I offer writers.  The person asked how people who work and have families can find time to do anything more. 

Finding time to write during the week when you have so many demands is tricky, but not impossible.  Boot Camp is adapted to each person’s needs.  What many writers want is a retreat, an oasis in her day which she can dedicate to her writing project, and someone to whom she can be accountable on a daily basis.  Whether we call the time a Writer’s Retreat or Boot Camp, the critical elements are reasonable, daily writing goals and a moderate, consistent writing routine.

What might help you to work moderately and consistently?

I’d love to hear from you. 

Watch your email for the February edition of my newsletter—Smart Tips for Writers. If you aren’t receiving my newsletter, you can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.  ~John Quincy Adams

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Writing is not for the weak of heart.  Writing is often a dangerous act, requiring all of the mental toughness and grit you can muster.

And no one knows that more than my clients—those writing dissertations and those who are now pushing on with writing their books or writing grant applications or articles.

Some of my clients feel like imposters who think they somehow got to where they are by luck.

Others are exhausted by the effort and by the stress of so much riding on this one piece of writing that they’ve become apathetic.  To protect them from the pain of feeling incompetent their Lizard Brain lets them think: “I’ve stopped caring.”

One client has who has been published in well-received journals and who has presented internationally now is writing an application for an important grant.  She’s leery of her ability both to market herself and at the same time offer the supporting evidence that would clinch the application for her.

This is the client whose wisdom has served her well. But now she needs to be five times bolder than she’s been in writing her dissertation or in sending articles to journals.

She felt unequal to the task until she recalled that she had been interviewed after making a presentation outside of the U.S.  She remembers the exuberance she felt as she was explaining her position and her research to the interviewer.  Fortunately, she has a transcript of the interview, and reading it gives her the push and mental energy she needs to move into this new task.

Similarly, a client who feels she hasn’t performed well on her dissertation has been surprised to hear that she’s been nominated for an award by her committee.  Initially, she felt like hiding, sure that her work would  reveal herself to be less capable than what they would expect. She thought of what they might say to her when they learned that she isn’t as far along with her work as she thinks she should be.   But she also knows that she has been catastrophizing.  Talking about the lack of evidence she has for any of these destructive beliefs gives her the will to pull on her inner resources of mental toughness and grit, and the will to plan strategies that will help her to get back on track and to stop with the self-sabotaging.

When talented, skilled, successful people are again and again pushed to produce, they can start to question themselves, question whether they got to where they are only by luck, whether they have what it takes to keep going.  It takes boldness and courage to keep trudging, but it also takes a willingness to be vulnerable and to trust those around them, to show work to others when the work is not the best, and to ask for help.

As one brilliant woman told me, “I have to do that thing where I feel like I’m typing with two fingers.”  Instead of turning on herself when she feels fear or uncertainty, she has to manage her feelings and keep plunking away, boldly and bravely.

Writing is scary, but there are ways to move quickly past those fears, and then to keep going.

How are you doing?

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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