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Posts Tagged ‘writing habit’

Life is lived moment-to-moment—a glance out a window at the path of a rabbit in the yard, the taste of spicy food, a smile and a kind word from a grocery store clerk, the fleeting thought as you settle into your car seat. You hesitate and make a few connections in your mind

In addition to random moments, life is made of small routines—a short run, a quick clean-up of the kitchen or bathroom, saying good-night to a child.

Chunks of time make up our day.

And you can write your dissertation one chunk at a time.

Most graduate students come across Jane Bolker’s book, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. Jane Bolker was co-founder of the Writing Center at Harvard, and she also directed many dissertations. She writes from her experience of helping ABD’s to get started writing and then to stick with it. Bolker’s book urges people to write for a small period of time every day, the amount of time it would take you to fill the dishwasher and clean the kitchen or read a few books at nighttime to your child.

The Pomodoro is another a great tool for dissertation writers. The little clock that looks like a tomato, or one of the new apps or other countdown timers, has helped many writers ease into writing, one 25-minute chunk at a time. It helps writers push away distractions, to focus, and then to stick with the writing for the length of the Pomodoro.

A Pomodoro can be an essential aid to someone balancing a dissertation with a job and family, where planning is a way of life.

One Pomodoro or two Pomodoros becomes a unit of time that you can remember. “I worked two Pomodoros every day last week at lunchtime,” a client says. It is a tool that helps establish a habit. Read more about it here.

If you need help in restarting your writing and then establishing a productive routine, coaching is another tool that has helped many writers.  Dissertation coaching can help you look again at the parts and pieces of your writing project.

Coaching will introduce you to many strategies that will help you successfully manage your work. And you will be talking to someone interested in your personal process, someone, most likely, who once lived the life of the ABD.

I would love to hear from you.  August is a great time to try coaching.

All the best,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

http://www.nancywhichard.com

 

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A famous New Yorker Magazine cartoon illustrates procrastination and resistance against things you don’t want to do. A man is talking on the phone to someone wanting to meet with him, and the man says, “How about never—is never good for you?”

“How about never” speaks to many writers. When will you feel like writing? How about never?

Today I listened to procrastination researcher Dr. Timothy Pychyl of Carleton University in Ottawa speak about a difficulty you may have, the procrastination in starting a task that you don’t feel like doing, such as writing. At times he, too, has to drag himself to write, but he says, “It doesn’t matter how you feel. Just get started.” He adds that he is not saying “just do it”;  rather, if you can find a way to start a task, even if you stay at it for only five minutes, you are likely to return to the task the next day.

Dr. Pychyl says to fit into the larger pattern of your day the tasks that you would ordinarily procrastinate on, such as writing or exercising. Recently I spoke with a young woman who runs each day. And even though running has been part of her life for some time, she still has to work at ignoring her mind chatter that tells her to take a day off.

How does she run even if she does not feel like it? She says that the fewer the uncertainties about running, the more likely it is that she will run.

She is on to something. Dr. Pychyl says that you can get caught in uncertainty, even with things you say you want to do.

Eliminate the uncertainty about when to run

My runner friend does not wait until after she gets home at the end of the day to run because of the many distractions. It’s too easy, she says, to flop on her couch in front of her TV and never get up.

Likewise, she does not wait until she gets to work each day to decide whether she will run that day. For her mental health, she leaves her desk during her lunch hour. That hour is the time she plans to go to her to run.

Incentives always help

She has extra incentives that make it easier for her to go to her gym:

  • The gym is a pleasant place with jazz playing in the locker room
  • The gym is only a short walk from her office

But getting to the gym still takes willpower. And willpower is not always enough.

Use a daily ritual to avoid resistance

Knowing that on some days she will feel resistance, she has put in place a daily routine of small steps that lead her gradually to her goal of running.

The daily routine has become a ritual that gives her the focus and momentum she needs to move forward toward running, and she has woven the steps of the ritual in among her regular office duties.

The small steps in her ritual also keep her from thinking about potential momentum-stoppers, such as showering at mid-day, the pain she sometimes feel while running, and the other activities or work she could be doing instead of running.

Her ritual is simple but effective.  It starts at 10:15 a.m. after she has been at her job for more than an hour:

–10:15 a.m.:

She takes breakfast to work–cereal/milk/juice–and eats at 10:15 a.m. so that she will not feel hungry when she walks to the gym. Eating this light breakfast at mid-morning every dayalso triggers her focus toward what will come next. With each step she becomes more engaged with the upcoming task.

–11:30 a.m.:

At 11:30 a.m. she starts drinking water to hydrate.

–11:45 a.m.:

At 11:45 she breathes deeply and stretches briefly in the work break room.

–12:05 p.m.:
By 12:05 she is walking to the gym, reminding herself that in one hour she will be back at her desk.

–At the locker room:

She feels increasingly confident and eager to run as she starts to put on her running clothes. She says that once she has laced her shoes, her feet know what to do. At that point, she is  at big milestone, signifying that she has hit each of the smaller goals or steps along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And she anticipates the rewards of  greater mental clarity and feeling healthier that running always gives her.

The keys to her success

1. Determining that she will use her lunch hour to run relieves her of the stress of deciding daily when or for how long she will run.

2. Starting and carrying through on the steps each morning break down her resistance and mentally prepare her to run.

3. Her plan varies little. Delivering daily on the steps  has become a habit, indeed a ritual. The ritual is reassuring and increases her clarity of thought. She feels that something is wrong if she doesn’t follow through on each of her planned steps.

And how could a ritual help you?

As a writer, you, too, will know the pleasure and benefit of reaching your goal of writing every day if you:

1. Determine the time of day and where you will start writing.

Avoid waiting until late in the day when you are tired and when distractions have their greatest allure.

2. Determine how long each writing session will be.

Make the length of time realistic and do-able;

3. Develop a series of specific steps that you take at determined times, such as checking that you have the text you want to work on and that  you will have a cup of tea ready soon. Then take a few deep breaths and meditate for a few minutes. Or stand at a window and feel the sun on your face. Each step will help you build momentum and a readiness to work;

The fewer the uncertainties and decisions, the more likely it is that you will write.

 

What habits or rituals do you have in place that help you avoid procrastination and remove uncertainty about writing?  I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

 

 

 

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Another Monday is upon us.  If you have an office job, will you drag into work, thinking of fifteen other places you would rather be, with bed high on the list?  Re-entry into the work week is hard, but re-starting your writing no matter what day of the week wins the Resilience and Determination Litmus Test hands down.

Here are three tips for restarting your writing routine: 

1.  The shorter time since you were last writing, the easier it is to begin. If you wrote yesterday and stopped at point where you weren’t totally spent, you have something more to give to the writing today.  Stick to a scheduled writing routine.

2.  Always have three key words at the ready to guide the day’s writing session.  When you end each writing session, write down at least three key words that will spark your ideas for the next writing session.  If you do that, you will have a way to move into the writing.  Then re-entry may not be so overwhelming.

3.  Starting your day with a workout or a run will recharge your brain.  Have you heard about the schools that are now using exercise within the classroom and scheduling competitive, heavy-duty exercise early each day to awaken the kids’ brains?  Dr. Charles Hillman at the University of Illinois says that exercise is “good for attention, it’s good for how fast individuals process information, and how they perform on cognitive tasks.”

In “The Happiness Project” blog, Gretchen Rubin says that when she drops her child off at day care, she could then exercise at her conveniently located gym before going to work, but she doesn’t want to waste the morning time.  It is true that the morning is the best time to write, but exercise is never a waste of time.

For a faster restart to your writing and with less foot dragging:
 1. Write daily.
2. Write three key words at the end of each writing session to jump-start the next session.
3.  Spend 30 minutes on a treadmill or in other aerobic exercise each morning.

What about you?  What’s your plan for a smart re-start to your writing?

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
www.smarttipsforwriters.com

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What do you envision that would help you produce more text and jumpstart your motivation?

What about creating your own writer’s retreat?

Consider how a Boot Camp for Writers would get you back on track with your dissertation or your book or article and give a huge boost to your productivity.

If you have been a frequent reader of this blog, you know that Boot Camp is one of the services I offer writers who want to push aside distractions and excuses and write. 

It came about from my seeing the cottages that many published writers had built for themselves just for the purpose of writing. I also dreamed of going to one of the writer’s retreats I often heard and read about. 

To help me make headway on major writing projects, I fashioned my own kind of writer’s retreat, and it worked for me. How about you?  Do you want to create your own writer’s retreat and form a daily writing habit? 
 
If you want to make progress on your book, article, or dissertation, Boot Camp very likely may be what you’ve been looking for.
 
Boot Camp typically runs for two weeks. I help with the planning and daily accountability.  At the end of the two-week Boot Camp, we usually continue the coaching so that you maintain the writing habit that Boot Camp gives you and to help you continue to be the productive writer that you want to be.
 
A recent client had this to say about Boot Camp:

I was really paralyzed with my dissertation, and to be frank, did not expect that anything would change. I just wanted to know myself that I had tried everything I could think of to get going again.

I was ecstatic when I started writing again just in the first few days of boot camp. I gradually became more confident when at the end of each day I had more material added to the chapter.
 

Interested?  I’d love to hear from  you.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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“How can I do a dissertation quickly,” asked a would-be dissertator.  Quickly, relative to what?  Relative to not doing it at all?  Quickly in terms of jumping back into the process and finishing it up? How rigorous is your university?  How demanding is your advisor?

All of these questions are relevant, but first you have to answer this question:  Are you writing now?

When people come to me wanting help with their dissertations, they most usually have been procrastinating and not only are they not writing daily, they aren’t writing much at all.  It’s usually been a month or three months or ages since they’ve produced a page or two.

To do a dissertation quickly or to do a dissertation at all, you have to write and you have to write consistently.

For people who have found writing to be anathema or repellent, I offer a jump-into-the-deep-end-of-the-pool exercise to help them establish a writing habit — Dissertation Boot Camp.

In addition to dissertation coaching, Boot Camp is the shove many would-be writers need.

Dissertation Boot Campers benefit from these guidelines:
1.  Commit to a daily writing session of a specific length;
2.  Start that daily writing as early in the day as possible, before emailing and before running errands and before cleaning up the kitchen or the bathroom;
3.  Be accountable on a daily basis, recording whether the goal for the day was met;
4.  Plan something resembling a week-end during the Boot Camp.
5.  Look forward to continuing with weekly coaching after Boot Camp to maintain strong accountability.

My job is to provide oversight, support, help with the accountability factor, and to offer whatever I can based on the experiences of my other clients.

Not only do you want to write your dissertation, quickly or otherwise, but you also want to have increased your character strengths, enhanced your writing and analytical skills, and expanded your intellectual purview—all of which you can use after you have your PhD.

Writing your dissertation gives you the opportunity
1.  To learn how to push back against that perfectionist internal critic and other destructive gremlins;
2.  To put procrastination in its place;
3.  To discover how to persevere, even if perseverance is not your top strength;
4.  To know your best “writing you”—the writer who takes to the bank the skill of taking on a writing project, scheduling it, writing it well enough and relatively quickly, and meeting deadlines.

When you’re finished once and for all with your dissertation, you want to have a success strategy in place – in the bank– that you can draw on for your future writing projects.

To finish your dissertation quickly, you need a robust writing habit.  Are you writing consistently?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Nancy

P.S.  Smart Tips for Writers, my e-newsletter, goes out next week.  If you aren’t subscribed, sign up at my website: www.nancywhichard.com.

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net

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As you attempt to write your dissertation, do you find that your feelings sometimes get in the way?  What feelings do you find yourself dwelling on?

Among my dissertation coaching clients, guilt in various forms is high on the list:
•   Guilt for not being further along in the work
•   Guilt for taking too long to finish
•   Guilt for wasting time
•   Guilt for denying your spouse, child, partner, parents your time and attention
•   And even guilt for ever starting the dissertation in the first place.

Guilt not only takes up space and slows down the writing, but it encourages self-defeating attitudes and actions.  For instance, some dissertators tell me that because they feel they have let too much time go by and aren’t farther along in the writing, they try to make up for lost time by letting the work take over evenings and week-ends.  That leads to guilt for not having time for people in your life.

Guilt is toxic, contaminating more and more time space and time.

What can you do to manage such noxious feelings?

1.  Commit to a new habit of daily writing.
You can’t change the past, but you can commit to a specific number of hours at a specific time every day that you will be your dissertation time.  My Boot Camp clients tell me that developing a daily writing habit has given them the muscle they need to push distractions and those worrisome feelings aside.

 In fact, being in Boot Camp helps you physically and mentally to remove yourself from a place where you dwell on your feelings. 

2.  Daily writing is invigorating; procrastination isn’t.
If you have scheduled the time you will write, you won’t waste time and energy fighting internal battles of whether you’ll write today. Some dissertation clients tell me that they have the bad habit of putting off writing until late in the afternoon, but all day they seem to be involved in some way with their dissertation.

If you procrastinate over a long period of time, you’re allowing your feelings to control you.  And you’ll end up exhausted and burned out.

3.  Designate two days each week as the weekend.
The weekend may be Saturday and Sunday, but it could also be Tuesday and Wednesday.  Commit to having some down time where you can enjoy or deal with the rest of your life.   You will also be giving your brain the chance to be idle, the best way for it to provide you with insights.  Time off from writing can also be productive time.
 
4.  Write from an outline or compose bullet points.
Our emotions can flood us when we feel stuck during a writing session.  All too often we feel stuck when we’re trying to compose because we’re trying to write perfect sentences.  If you free yourself from thinking about stylistic issues, you will be less likely to open the floodgates of those negative emotions.  Follow the outline you made for yourself and, for now, don’t worry about how inelegant the writing sounds. 

Even better, compose bullet points during a writing session.  Let go of complex sentences and the best choice of words. Just go for content.  Know that somewhere down the line you can flesh out the bullet points, but for now you’re managing feelings and, hallelujah! you’re producing pages.

If you have a tip for managing the negative feelings that tend to derail a writing session, I would love to hear from you.

Happy writing,

Nancy

P.S.  If you want to jump start your writing this fall, drop me an email.  Boot Camp and coaching are two great ways to help you set writing goals and work toward them.

Also, if you haven’t signed up for my e-newsletter, Smart Tips for Writers, drop by my website at www.nancywhichard.com and sign up.

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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What does August have in common with January and New Year’s? 

If you are an  academic writer, a PhD in academia, or an ABD, the last half of summer and August, in particular, may be the calm before the storm, the last best chance to do some serious writing before classes start and maybe before your advisor  (or department chair) returns to campus and you have to face him or her.

Just as in January, when everyone is urging you to start afresh, to lose weight, to join a gym, with August looming, you are now getting offers of four free sessions with a coaching group or membership in a low-cost online writing group.  Come closer to the August dissertation/academic writing hype—use the hype to start your own fire. 

You could try my Boot Camp, or steal my model for yourself.

My Boot Camp is a concentrated 2-week session in which I ask writers to commit to write four hours daily. Writers draw firm boundaries to eliminate distractions and to avoid setting themselves up for failure.  For accountability, I ask clients to email me after each daily writing session. 

By sticking to the plan, a success strategy is in motion.  Over the two weeks, writing becomes a habit because success is a habit.

Even if you’re working full time and also juggling a dissertation, you can make time over the next few weeks if you open yourself to the potential for summer productivity.

Don’t let this season of opportunities pass you by. If you’ve been an on-again, off-again dissertation writer for far too long, establish the writing habit and enjoy successful writing. 

Enjoy the success of building a consistent, daily, robust writing habit. 

I’m keeping an eye on the calendar.  Are you?

Nancy

P.S.  If you’re interested in successful writing and summer productivity, I’d like to hear from you.  Have you tried Boot Camp? Check out my tips at my website—www.nancywhichard.com and www.dissertationbootcamp.net.

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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