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Posts Tagged ‘time management’

You sit down to write, and what’s that you’re doing? Without a second thought, you are checking the cnn.com weather app, thinking about how much colder it is where your grandma lives. And now you’re skimming email. What was that you wanted to check?  Oh, yes, you noticed that Marcus Mumford was wearing a wedding band during the Another Day/Another Time folk music concert on TV.  And you’re off on another Google search to find out who is his wife.

You are sitting in front of your screen, and your fingers are moving, but you are in the clutches of resistance, once again. Flight has prevailed over fight.

The Turnaround Artist

I received some praise recently—someone called me a turnaround artist.

It’s an interesting tag. Typically, a turnaround artist is a business person who is takes over a company that is falling behind.

To turn around a lagging writing project also takes drastic action, not unlike rescuing lagging stocks or companies and transforming them.

However, before a coach is a turnaround artist, the writer has to sign on for the transformation and then show up. The coach needs the writer also to become a turnaround artist.

Do Something Daring—Manage Your Writing for a One-Month Experiment

Is having a huge, long-term goal so over powering that each day you have to fight insecurities or the threat of the imposter syndrome? If you are feeling some danger around this project (that old lions-are-going- to-eat-me-if-I don’t- flee feeling), then do something daring. Hatch a plan that puts you on the front line. Challenge yourself to an experiment for a month during which you will not only write, but you will also practice oversight. During the experiment, evaluate time spent, your progress, areas where you need more learning, and personal growth.

I was talking recently to a person with a background in accountancy. She says that her decisions are data-driven, or as close to that as possible. Numbers don’t lie, she says. Taking that approach during your one-month experiment could be an eye-opener. What data could you keep track of? What is measurable in your writing process? Time spent on task on a day-by-day basis. Number of “have-done” tasks that you keep track of during the week. Number of words written or number of pages written.  And especially the number of setbacks and reworkings or restarts.

Uncomfortable Is Normal

Acknowledge that this work has unfairly brought forth all of your insecurities. You have not written a dissertation before, and so you may not have specific experience to fall back on. You aren’t on a military maneuver, and so there isn’t a manual. Nevertheless, you have survived other new and unsettling situations and you have even flourished. Look forward to flourishing, but for now ride out the uncomfortable feeling, and, if it helps, know that writing a dissertation is seldom comfortable. Over the month-long experiment, notice and collect evidence/data on how you are building resilience and courage. For instance, you could benefit from learning how many times this week/month you sat down and worked on your writing project even when you felt anxious or uncomfortable.

Practice Oversight of Your Writing for More Life Balance

Turn around your inefficient, sluggish, time-suck of a writing process. Use your professional or home-grown skills to trim and reset your project so that it fits into the time you have available. Then writing will be one thing that you do, along with having a rich personal life and a job.

It’s a good thing to call in an outsider when you need some honest talk and a different perspective, but each writer must put on the hat and glasses of the outsider and view one’s work habits and writing with fresh eyes.

How are you doing as a project manager of your dissertation or thesis? Where are you succeeding and where is your work lagging? I would love to hear from you.

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.nancywhichard.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

 

 

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Time management matrix as described in Merrill...

Time management matrix as described in Merrill and Covey 1994 book "First Things First," showing "quadrant two" items that are important but not urgent and so require greater attention for effective time management (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not too long ago, when my adult son mentioned how busy his work and life have become,  my husband was reminded of an annual planning session he had attended at which a facilitator presented a workshop on how to organize your time. 

As my husband drew a diagram from that workshop, I realized that he was drawing time management guru Stephen Covey‘s famous matrix. 

 

Stephen Covey’s Matrix 

Stephen Covey groups the ways we spend our time into four quadrants:

 –1-important and urgent

–2-important and not urgent

–3-not important and urgent

–4-not important and not urgent

As my husband drew the diagram, he said, “The facilitator said you should attend immediately and with personal involvement to Quadrant I matters.” The facilitator’s words about urgent matters resonated with my husband because he always has more work than he can get done.  Everything is urgent.

 

Everything is urgent

In your life, as an academic, ABD, dissertator, professional writer—does that sound familiar? You’re grading papers, attending meetings, preparing classes or presentations, returning email, managing crises at home, and trying to keep up with all that keeps hitting you. As you rush frantically and lose sleep, you also try to engage in last-minute binge writing of your dissertation before the time you told your advisor you would be submitting your promised work.  

Not only had my husband remembered clearly what the facilitator said is assigned to Quadrant I– the urgent and important matters, but he also clearly remembered those matters in Quadrant IV.  The facilitator said that Quadrant IV contains matters that you could basically forget about or things headed for the “circular file.” In other contexts, Quadrant IV could include behaviors such as vegging out in front of the TV or hanging out at Facebook.

So that’s Quadrant I and IV.  What about Quadrant II?  Important but NOT urgent matters would go in Quadrant II. 

Not surprisingly, my husband said that had forgotten what the facilitator said specifically about Quadrants II.  That’s probably because my husband, like so many of us, has to focus on urgent matters. The stuff that never stops. 

 

What you need to meet your goals

What are the important matters contained in Quadrant II and why should we care?  Take a look at what matters are in Quadrant II:

–goal-setting

–planning

–building relationships

–exercising

–productivity

People who most often meet their goals do more planning, organizing, and anticipating. They work efficiently and productively, avoiding last-minute sprints in order to meet impending deadlines, and they honor goals of a healthy lifestyle and close relationships.

While you might be able to avoid some of the distractions and time-wasters of Quadrants III and IV, how do you ignore the unrelenting onslaught of urgent demands of Quadrant I so that you can spend more time with the important matters of Quadrant II?  

 

Controlling what’s urgent

Not everything is an emergency, and we can take steps to stay out-of-the-way of things that appear urgent. Whenever possible, avoid email, particularly before or during a writing session. Avoid such additions to your workload as more volunteering, carpooling, office projects when the work really isn’t your responsibility, and perfectionism that can lead to unwarranted revision and research on your writing project.

Let people know that you are turning off your email and phone during the time you are writing. That would be a bold, but empowering step, wouldn’t it?

 

10 tips that will move you closer to your writing goal

Here are more tips that will help you increase your focus on what is important and also help you move closer to your writing goal:

–Anticipate future demands and activities. Plan, plan, plan. 

–Make your schedule and stick to it.

–Plan do-able, timely deadlines which you meet.  Such a plan results in productivity.

–Prepare so that when you sit down to write, your subconscious has had time to work on the ideas.

–Include physical exercise in your life. (Check out previous blogs and upcoming blogs on the importance of exercise to your writing life.)

–Break out the outlines. If you don’t have an outline, make one. Have an outline in place to guide your writing session.

–Routinely, daily, go to a quiet place to write and to plan the next day’s writing.

–Set up an accountability factor. Ask your friends if you can mail them a chapter and then tell them when you will mail it.

–Email your coach with frequent updates on daily writing sessions.

–Keep an eye on productivity—it’s under your control.

It might be a small problem for you to push aside something seemingly urgent in order to plan and schedule writing sessions, but if you don’t do that, you’ll have the big problem of not producing text because you are running around as if your hair is on fire.

Your hair isn’t on fire.  Slow down, plan, and show up to write.

In the March issue of my newsletter Smart Tips for Writers, I wrote about Stephen Covey’s “Big Rocks” and how that strategy relates to your dissertation. Let me know if that issue never arrived in your inbox. If you aren’t signed up for my newsletter, you can take care of that at my website at www.nancywhichard.com.

I’d love to hear your ideas on urgent vs. important matters and how they impact your writing.

Best to you,

Nancy

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

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How do writers manage their time and produce writing, even if they are taking on a subject new to them and are raising young children?

When I learned of an upcoming interview with Gretchen Rubin, the writer of the New York Times best-seller Happiness Project, I was curious.

I had come across Gretchen Rubin’s blog, but I thought I would learn more about her work before deciding if I would listen to the interview.

It appears that her book arouses opposing responses.  One grumpy reviewer renamed Rubin’s book as “Be Happy by Being Perfect All the Time,” attributing the writer’s motivation to perfectionism, to a need for external validation, and laziness—that is, she was avoiding doing “what it would take to really make her happy.”

In spite of the negative blog, I continued to poke around, and the more I learned about Rubin, the more I was intrigued.

Gretchen Rubin is an academic and was trained as a lawyer.

Some years ago she was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Review and then clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She decided that law wasn’t for her and left the law to write. She wrote three books on various subjects.

But then she decided to write about happiness.  An odd choice for someone trained to be a lawyer?

Maybe not. She and her well-to-do husband and children live in Manhattan.  Rubin says that she had everything that should make her happy, but she clearly didn’t feel happy. She wrote the book to learn “what it would take to be less snappish and more lighthearted.” 

And like the academic researcher that she was trained to be, in order to learn how to be more lighthearted, she immersed herself in research—in the emerging field of positive psychology and the extensive critical literature on happiness.  Then she spent a year testing all of the research and happiness theories. The Happiness Project is the book that she wrote detailing that year.

I’ve always found writing to be hard work, and a best-selling writer who has researches heavily and spends a year testing the research in order to write her book arouses my interest.

Gretchen Rubin read hundreds of books on the subject of happiness not only to write a book, but also to help herself be grateful for the life that she has: “Why am I getting myself distracted by petty irritations?” she asked herself before she started the project.

The more I read about Rubin’s process to research and write the book, the more I knew I wanted to hear the interview with Gretchen Rubin.  And she didn’t disappoint.

In the interview, Gretchen Rubin said that she loves a schedule and a routine. However, as a result of the many demands on her time because of her children, she has to be more flexible. Instead of a schedule, she uses accomplishment as her structure. She puts up a blog post every day, sends out weekly and monthly newsletters, and is currently working on yet another book.

She gets up at 6 am, an hour before her family wakes, to get started on one of her writing tasks. Her commitment is that sometime during the coming day she will spend three hours doing “hardcore, original” writing. Every day she writes for at least three hours.  Any reading is done outside of that time.

According to Rubin, making a firm decision in advance that you will do a fixed amount of writing each day is critical.

I’m inspired by a writer who writes every day, no matter what, and who avoids the “yeah-but’s” that she might use to excuse not writing. I admire Rubin’s self-management—her grit, resilience, mental toughness.

Perhaps like me, you have also been inspired by a writer’s story. Who inspires you to keep writing? Whose writing process would you like to use as a model?

I’d love to hear from you.

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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Recently a dissertation coaching client said she had made a choice which would give her more time.  That choice reminded me of Found Money. 

 

You know what Found Money is, right? 

 

 

Here’s an example:

 

I bought a pack of those special money envelopes that are in the card racks at Christmastime, and about 10 days before Christmas, I sent my nieces and nephews cash as their gift.

 

I had two or three envelopes left over, so I put them in a drawer.

 

Closer to Christmas, I took out those extra envelopes and, guess what, there was cash in one of them.  Yikes, could I have sent an empty envelope to one of the kids? How else would I have an envelope with money in it?  Favorite Aunt Status is at stake. 

 

After a hurried call to the mothers, I was reassured that no, all children had received cash from me.

 

I felt a little silly that somehow I had put money in an extra envelope. 

 

But the good news was that now I had Found Money.

 

 

 

As someone said to me, “Is there anything better than Found Money, especially at Christmastime?” 

 

 

 

Recently what reminded me of Found Money was that my client said she now she had more time.

 

How is the Found Time showing up in your writing schedule, I asked.  Hmm, not sure, she said. 

 

At Christmas I had spent the Found Money, even though it wasn’t a fortune, on something that I knew no one else would get me.  Something that I could remember that I had done for myself –sort of like buying my own Cupcake.  And it had come from the Found Money that I could have stuck in my billfold and frittered away on groceries. 

 And so here’s my take on Found Time and saying no: 

·        Once you say NO to something, you will immediately have more time. 

·        When you get more time, it feels like an unexpected gift that you can use any way you want to.

 

Something of value has opened up to you—how do you want to spend it?

·        Spend that Found Time where it will make a big impact.

·        Work on your dissertation during the very time that you would have been doing that old commitment.

·        Smile when you think how close you came to frittering away Found Time.

 

More time gives you hope, and hope gives you momentum and drive.  

 

Found Time or Found Money—which is of more value to you?  I’m guessing Found Time.  Use it or lose it.

 

Happy writing!

 

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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Have you heard of a “showrunner”?

Writers in the TV industry are now expected also to manage—or to have the skills and strengths that would allow them to manage.

According to John Wells, Writers Guild of America West president and writer/producer of E.R., Third Watch, and West Wing, it is almost impossible to be just a writer anymore in television.

Instead of “head writer,” the path for the writer is to control the material and make decisions, thus be a  “showrunner.”

Similar to the showrunner, you are managing your career, and an important step on the ladder of your academic career is writing the dissertation. How are you managing the important project of writing your dissertation?  When will you close and deliver the project?

To deliver the dissertation:

1. Use the process and mindset of a showrunner/ Project Manager.
2. Exercise the strengths and skills of a showrunner/ Project Manager.

What strengths do you think an effective showrunner/ Project  Manager has?

Consider these:

1.  Leadership
2.  Judgment and critical thinking
3.  Self-control/self-discipline
4.  Diligence and perseverance
5.  Creativity and ingenuity

What happens if you look at  your dissertation project through the lens of leadership?

A showrunner/Project Manager has the job of  providing leadership in these areas:

1.  Planning
2.  Scheduling
3.  Organizing and holding to a timeline
4.  Collaborating with team members
5.  Working with superiors/bosses
6.  Managing a budget
7.  Closing the project

How can you encourage and motivate yourself to get things done?  How can you organize tasks to make following through more of a given?

Along with writing content, make sure you are managing your project:

— Closing the project depends on planning, scheduling, and organizing.

–Exercise your strength of working with others.  Don’t hide out to avoid all personal contact with advisors or others who can help you in the process.

— Consider the costs.

You may not be managing a $26-million-dollar budget for a TV show, but consider what it costs you not to make and meet a schedule.

Writing a dissertation is a great time to practice the strength of leadership.  How are you running your show?

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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Many thanks to ToDo, who has a tip for us– go to youtube
 
Thanks! What fun!
 
See you on YouTube

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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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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