Posts Tagged ‘time management’

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 Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

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Several of my dissertation coaching clients use timers on their computers to help them get started with a writing session, to stay focused, and to stick with their work. 

It also helps them to stop at a pre-determined time. In that way, they don’t stay at the writing too long and yet they stay long enough to get a good chunk of work done. 

One client says that her Taskmaster—her time-tracking widget — helps her with time management and with keeping track of how much time she spends on a task. 

Another client uses a free online timer called Instant Boss.  The “Boss” alerts him at a thirty-minute mark—the amount of time for a writing session that my client has decided works best for him   He’s noticed that if he stays at it longer, his productivity goes down.

Not only does the Boss tell him when to take a break, but it also helps him keep his breaks to five or ten minutes.

If he decides to take a short walk during his break, he sets the timer on his cell phone.

Using a timer protects you from sabotaging yourself.  You decide before you start the writing session how long you will work and how long your break will be.

It’s a handy writing tool, giving you some freedom while it eliminates the need to keep track of time yourself.  And a timer helps you stay focused, allowing for an efficient and productive writing session.
Have you been thinking about trying a timer?  Why not give it a whirl?

If you use a timer, I’d love to hear how it is working for you.

Until next time,

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

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My dissertation coaching clients and writing coaching clients have problems with time—usually the problem is that there’s not enough.  Occasionally, there’s too much time!

1.  Put it into writing.
It’s important not only to schedule writing every day, but also to mark your calendar.  One dissertation client says, “If I don’t have a space in my daily calendar marked ‘write,’ I let other responsibilities push writing out.”

2.  Gear up every morning.
Free write or list ideas every morning, even if you aren’t able to take your writing beyond free writing.  “It gets you going for later in the day,” says another client.

3.  Make the most of available minutes.
“If I know that I have only lunch hour to write, I plan what I will write,” says a third client.  “I can’t afford to let minutes slip away.”

4.  There’s such a thing as too much time.
If you have full days available to you to write, start strong and then break for a yoga class or schedule coffee with a friend.  Having a whole day that stretches ahead can lead to procrastination. 

5.  And last, never give up writing time for household chores.
Says one writer, “I just have a rule that I won’t ever clean a toilet or wash a dish during my time for writing.”  Such a rule keeps you from finding urgent excuses not to write.

Share your tip for finding more time to write.  I’d love to hear from you.

Make time to write,

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

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If you’re like me, you don’t have uninterrupted time for writing.

Maybe you work full time in a demanding job or work two demanding part-time jobs or you take care of your children.

And when you get to the point when you do have time to write, you’re exhausted.  Just brain dead.

And that, of course, is the problem.  Waiting until we think we have time to write.

I work with writers from all over the world, and whether the client is in Germany or Norway or Seattle, Washington, a common problem for all, myself included, is that we procrastinate.

I can’t count the times that dissertation clients and other writers have told me that they do their best writing first thing in the morning. And I can’t tell you how many times clients have told me how they let early morning time get away from them.

Let me tell you about two people for whom writing is an important part of their jobs.

Both people procrastinate—neither is perfect.

Both have others depending on them.  Their writing matters.

One person, whom I’ll call Tom, procrastinates until it hurts—hurts him and hurts those around him.

He lets the writing back up until at times he hides out and avoids others. Or other times, he will become very engrossed in a new project, in which writing plays a smaller role.  The new project is always important and interesting.  But when the writing does not get done, there are major repercussions for himself and those around him.

The second person, whom I’ll call Tom, too, or Tom 2, is clearly anxious about the writing he needs to do.  Like Tom the first, Tom 2 is a good writer, but he also lets the writing stack up.  He has many responsibilities in his job and at home.  But somewhere along the way, Tom 2 learned to prioritize.  He learned to do the most urgent and important work early on, maybe not first, because he, too (he is Tom 2, you know), procrastinates.  But not only is he well aware that he is procrastinating, but he also feels deeply that others matter.  If he’s holding up other people, it’s obvious how bad he feels.  He often apologizes

But he doesn’t walk away from the work entirely.

You can almost see him getting up the courage and motivation (my grandmother would say he was “getting up steam”) to jump in.

He often goes to quiet places during the days he’s not required to be at work in order to make the needed commitment to the writing and to make a stab at the work

I think Tom 2 has little by little trained himself to be productive and to write even when it makes him anxious.  Being aware of his priorities gives him strength and helps him focus.   He gives himself a little slack, and then he makes a right turn directly into the messy storm of writing.

I learn a lot by watching other writers.  Writing matters and others matter.

If you learn from observing other writers (and from your own experiences), I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time!

Your International Dissertation Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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If you have been involved in other demanding projects and are now coming back to your dissertation, your inclination may be first to review and read over all of your notes and everything that you’ve written. 

And how much time would the review consume?

Oh, I will venture a guess that it could consume your day.  It could go on forever, right?

Instead of letting the review become a marathon, try this:
1)  Set the number of hours you plan to work in this session.

2)  Decide how best you could use your time during the review.  What specifically will you re-read—your outline?  Proposal? Introduction to the first two chapters? 

3)  Where are you heading after you’ve read your outline, proposal and introductions?  What is the new work you will do?  Take stock–what is the challenge you’re facing right now in your writing?  What is the difficult section or chapter that awaits you?

4)  Decide how you will divide the time available between the review and the new work.   What fraction of the time will you review?  What fraction of the time will you write?

5)  If you have 3 hours of work, could you do the review in 1 hour or 1 hour and 15 minutes?  That would be less than ½ of the time available, leaving most of your available time for moving forward. 

We can easily make ourselves believe that we really need to spend more time reviewing, but the goal is to keep moving forward. 

To re-start your project and to get your momentum going, make a detailed plan for your writing session that will quickly move you into producing text

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