Finish Your Dissertation in 2019 Part1: Set Intentions Instead of Resolutions

December 28, 2018

It is 2019, a new year and a new opportunity to finish your dissertation once and for all (or at least get closer to the end). If you are like most students we meet, you want to be productive, focused and less apt to procrastinate this coming year. You want to be proactive, engaged and feel confident in your ability to manage the opportunity and responsibility of earning a doctoral degree. So how can you best capitalize on the energy of a new year and the promise of a fresh start?

Here at The Dissertation Coach, we hope to inspire you to have a highly productive 2019. In future installments of a four-part series on finishing your dissertation this year, we’ll talk about the importance of tolerating ambiguity, both in the writing process and in the act of setting goals, and how being willing to not know what you’re doing is one of the keys to approaching the New Year with an open and productive spirit. We’ll also talk about the kind of self awareness needed to approach the year and the dissertation with vigor and discernment, and we’ll even give you some tips for rituals you can do in the New Year to help you get started and keep focused. Now, in this first installment of the series, we encourage you to set intentions for the new year rather than making resolutions (What’s the difference? Read on to find out).


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 avoid negative outcomes in the future). In this way, your resolutions can anchor your mind in the past and future instead of in the present moment where you actually have the power to take positive action and influence outcomes. So what’s an alternative?

Instead of resolutions, consider setting intentions.

An intention is a guiding principle for how we want to show up and be present in any area of life. Setting intentions allows us to step back and view the bigger picture of our lives. By stepping back, we see what matters most, and what we want to create, nurture, and build.  So, step back now and ask yourself, “What guiding principle(s) would support my academic goals in 2019?” “What will actually help my dissertation be done?”

See if you can engage with this activity with your heart as well as your mind, and feel your way into what intentions seem wise given your goals. Here are some examples to get you going: “I focus on learning instead of being right,” “I am willing to struggle”, or “Every Sunday night, I plan for the week ahead.” Or you could have a simple mantra, like “Release perfectionism”, “Act with courage”, or “Be curious.”  You may want to brainstorm with a friend or family member as you consider what intentions would serve you well. Write down your intentions in a meaningful place so you can remember them (your mind won’t be able to hold onto them until they are well-practiced), or you could even make a vision board where you print out the words and paste them onto a poster or piece of cardboard. Your intentions are here to remind you that your real power to finish your dissertation resides in the present moment.

Practice holding yourself to your intentions on a daily basis. Allow them to help you discern what your next steps are and to align your behavior with your goals. If I declare, for example, that I am willing to struggle in 2019, I am more likely to stay with writing in a given session even when it gets hard. Whenever you notice you are not working well, it’s likely a sign that you have lost sight of your intentions and it’s time to reconnect. Think about your intentions and imagine what it would feel like in your body to be behaving in a way that is informed by them. When you consistently act in alignment with your intentions, you naturally take more positive and proactive action that will bring you closer to finishing your dissertation.

2019 FOR YOU

So what are your intentions for this New Year? What are some actions you can take to bring yourself into greater alignment with your goals and intentions? We would love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments! We are here to be of service to you.