Motivational poster for the new year of 2020

Finish Your Dissertation in 2020: Set Intentions Instead of Resolutions

Have you started a new year with a resolution to exercise more, lose weight, or be more productive only to lose sight of your goal within a few months or weeks? If so, you are not alone. Setting resolutions can produce behavioral changes, but those changes are often only temporary. When you set a resolution, you tend to reference the past (what do I need to fix or change so I avoid repeating my past) or your future (what do I need to do to

Graph paper notebook with my mistakes written in marker

Taming the Inner Critic in Graduate School

As you work toward earning a graduate degree there is an internal voice that is near impossible to avoid, the voice of the “inner critic.” This voice may criticize your intelligence, writing, analytical skills, or other abilities, doubt whether you have what it takes to earn a graduate degree, or call you names such as lazy, stupid, or incompetent. Left unchecked, the inner critic can be far more than an inventory of perceived shortcomings, it can do great harm diminishing your productivity and even leave

Wooden bridge crossing stream surrounded by multi-colored forest

Finish Your Dissertation: The Who, What, When, Where, Why, & How of Productivity

Finishing a dissertation requires that you complete thousands of tasks. While you only need to complete one task at a time, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of all the work that lies ahead. At The Dissertation Coach, we use the metaphor of crossing bridges as a way to help our clients think about the work they need to complete task by task. We frequently remind graduate students that they just need to cross one bridge at a time. For example, a

Closeup of a written work with several revisions written in red ink

Overwhelmed by Dissertation Revisions? Make an Inventory

Many years ago, I received what seemed like unnecessarily harsh feedback on my first first-authored submission to an academic journal. The editor and reviewers expressed issues with every section of the article. I still remember one of the reviewers stating the closing paragraph of the article sounded like a “soap opera” ending. Ouch! That comment hurt. This article was based on my master’s thesis and I was deeply invested in my research and my findings. Given how critical the feedback seemed, I was surprised that

Fountain pen resting on notebook with several entries written in black ink

The Power of Writing Rituals

Spring is here in the northern hemisphere. The sky has cleared. Bare tree branches are beginning to send out green shoots. It’s not only nature that is sprouting anew. At this time of year, our minds also turn to thoughts of renewal. For millenia, peoples around the world have celebrated the end of winter. Easter, Passover, Nowruz, Holi, the births of Rama and Hanuman, and many, many more. Each of these religious holidays, plus many other secular rites, involve age-old rituals. Often colorful and filled

Chrome laptop on white chic desk with potted cacti behind it

Making Your Dissertation Environment Work for You

Take a scan of your work environment right now. What do you see? Is your desk cluttered, messy, amok with papers, books, and files? Is your space an environment where you can focus easily and concentrate? Are you able to find what you need? Is it clean? Inviting? Do you like being there? Do you feel inspired to get down to business and work? While it might seem obvious that your work environment would have a big impact on your productivity, it’s easy to feel

Timer that looks like a tomato in reference to the Pomodoro Technique

Use Tomatoes to Finish Your Dissertation: The Pomodoro Technique

If you overheard our coaches talking to our clients, you might wonder why we keep mentioning the word tomatoes. Yes, tomatoes are a frequent part of our coaching vernacular. The term comes from Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique, a deceptively simple, yet highly effective approach to improving focus and productivity. When Cirillo developed the technique, he called it “pomodoro,” which is Italian for tomato, because he named it after the tomato shaped timer he used to divide his time into twenty-five minute intervals. The basic idea

Black graduate cap next to a rolled up diploma

The “Good Enough” Dissertation

“The best dissertation is a finished dissertation.” “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Spend enough time in graduate school, and you’ll hear both of these truisms at least once. Probably many more times once you start on the road toward writing your dissertation. Alison Miller, PhD, owner of The Dissertation Coach, has written about the danger of perfectionism. In dissertation writing, as in life, perfectionism—the need for every sentence to be nailed down and correct before being able to move on, for example—is

Number 2 pencil broken in half

Stop Dissertation Perfectionism in its Tracks

Perfectionism is a very common obstacle to productivity among graduate students. Perfectionism is generally defined as maintaining standards that are unrealistically high and impossible to attain. Some students impose excessively high standards for their writing that are unrealistic and unattainable. For example, many students believe they should be able to write a first draft that is ready to be reviewed by their advisor. Other students believe that their dissertation chairperson, committee members, or other academics hold extremely high standards for their work that must be met

Green road sign with white lettering that reads self care straight ahead

Self Care for Graduate Students When Time and Energy Are Tight

During my sessions with clients, I often notice that they sound stressed, anxious and tired. In some cases, they are worn out to exhaustion. I’ve come to expect this now from dissertation and thesis writers, and with good reason. After all, writing can be stressful all on its own, and even more so when you are working with an academic committee. That said, there is a cult of productivity that academia fosters. It seems like in academia, we must always be working. Like it’s a

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