Tagged: dissertation Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Julie T. Kinn 9:55 am on August 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , dissertation, mediocrity, , relaxation   

    Dealing with the Project you Hate Part II: Tools to Achieve Mediocrity 

    Last week’s post focused on recognizing and understanding the dynamic between you and work you have come to hate. Today’s post is all about specific strategies and tools for getting work done when your heart isn’t in it. In particular I’m thinking about dissertations, theses, and papers handed down to you by supervisors. But all the advice below can apply to any avoided/undesirable activity: cleaning the fridge, exercising, getting that weird mole checked, etc.

    • Cs Get Degrees. If you have finished a higher degree, then you are probably not by nature one to do things half-arsed. This strategy is generally a good one, except when it paralyzes you. At times I’ve seen brilliant and productive writers stymied by their fear of producing sub-par work. A key lesson in cognitive therapy is that If you can’t change the situation, change the way you think about the situation. Thus the title of this week’s post… if you are wrapped up in creating something groundbreaking, perhaps you should first shoot for mediocre. Sometimes it’s okay to just put crapola on paper. Give yourself the freedom to just get started without needing to make it amazing. I’m not suggesting that we dilute the academic literature with watered-down research. Instead, make the first draft just good enough.
    • Setting the Stage. In Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles we spend quite a bit of time on preparing yourself physically and emotionally to write, including making sure you have an environment conducive to success. Putting yourself in the right mindset is especially important when you are already engaging in negative self-talk about the project. Olympic athletes know the importance of sports psychology… if you say to yourself, “I’m going to screw this up” right before an event, the outlook is pooparriffic. When I was working on my dissertation I had a ridiculous way of motivating myself to work that I can’t believe I’m about to share with the world. I used to dress in what my husband called my “Hot Grad Student” gear, go to a cafe or bar, and sit with my laptop screen facing others so that I would be embarrassed to open Facebook or watch cute cat videos on YouTube (not that I ever do that).
    • There’s an App for That. Another good way to prep for work on hated projects is through relaxation. This may seem counter-intuitive, especially for those of us who like to mainline jolts of caffeine. However, given that often the hate for unfinished projects is really covering up anxiety, deliberately inducing relaxation makes sense. Anxiety increases the fight-or-flight response, and that comes with difficulty sitting still, increased heart rate, and a generally lousy writing experience. A fantastic (and free) breathing/relaxation app is Breathe2Relax. In the interest of full disclosure, my team made it, but it does seriously kick butt. And did I mention it’s free?
    • The Buddy System. I like to work next to other people. When I’m in a room by myself, I suddenly find myself eating chocolate and researching my favorite movies on IMDb. I’ve had two buddies who have spurred on my productivity in unique ways. I’m thinking in particular of my personal writing and publishing hero, Rich Furman, who has the best attitude of anyone I’ve ever known (incidentally, he also has an excellent blog all about writing). Just proximity to Rich is inspiring. On the other hand, I would probably still be working on my dissertation if it hadn’t been for my grad school buddy Leslie who would literally yell and curse at me in the middle of Starbucks if she saw me checking my email when I was supposed to be working. It takes a good friend to embarrass me into graduating.

    Next time I’ll be bringing out the big guns in the final chapter of this three part series. Tune in for Dealing with the Project you Hate Part III: Bribery and Punishment.

    Now, seriously, please make an appointment for that mole. You’ll feel better and so will I.

    Advertisements
     
  • Julie T. Kinn 9:05 am on July 31, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: automatic thoughts, , dissertation, , Star Wars, unicorns   

    Dealing with the Project You Hate Part I: Understanding Avoidance 

    When I was suffering through my dissertation, I went through a series of delusions about other potential careers. These included high school teacher, personal chef, rapper, and stand-up comic. In retrospect, practicing my rhymes was just a glorified way to annoy loved ones and to avoid the project I had come to hate.

    Many of us have one – a project that starts near the top of the priority list each Monday and magically slithers to the bottom by the end of the week. It gets derailed by hot tasks, urgent errands, favors for friends, and cleaning the bathroom. This is the project that seems to physically propel you out of your seat each time you sit down to work on it (e.g., “Shoot – I just remembered I need to clip my toenails. I’ll just do that real quick, Google myself, make a snack, and then get down to business.”).

    Sure, sure, some of you are delightfully motivated go-getters with no proclivity toward procrastination. How lovely to be you. For the rest of us, here are a few tips I have learned to help understand and address avoidance:

    1. Acknowledge the Problem and its Source. Develop a bit of insight into why the project is taking so long to address. What is the real issue? Perhaps it’s boring, or maybe it’s something more – feeling out of depth? Worried that you don’t know how to proceed? Afraid of letting someone down? A good way to figure out your emotional roadblocks is to write down the automatic thoughts associated with the project. What are the first thoughts that pop into your mind when you think of this project? Now consider what these thoughts tell you about your motivation.
    2. Visualize the Finish Line. Let’s travel to fantasy land for a moment… The trees are made of candy, unicorns are pooping rainbows, and your project is done. Ahhhhh. Isn’t that nice? This is how you could feel all the time if you just got this paper out the door. The key here is finding internal motivation instead of just external (more on this later this month).
    3. Find your Inner Sith Lord. So you hate the project. That’s okay. We’re grown-ups; we don’t always get to work on just the fun stuff. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, imagine Emperor Palpatine standing over your shoulder saying, “The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger.”

    Now tear that dissertation/manuscript/grant proposal a new one!

    Tune in next week for Dealing with the Project you Hate Part II: Tools to Achieve Mediocrity

     
    • Kindra 9:42 am on July 31, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      This is me to a T. Thanks for the hard look at reality. I can’t wait for Part II.

  • Julie T. Kinn 5:00 pm on October 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bacon, dissertation, thesis, trauma   

    Dust Off That Old Paper/thesis/dissertation and Publish it Already 

    I recently blogged about different types of writing groups. Just wanted to share an example of a low-effort motivational group I started.

    Last year, a couple of my coworkers and I were discussing the dissertation experience. After years of hard work, none of us had actually tried to publish the tomes. Generally, folks collect scads of data in a quantitative dissertation in order to publish two or three papers during the first year of an academic position.

    We decided to each take a fresh look at the dissertations and determine whether we could publish parts of them. My coworkers are in the fortunate position of actually having found significant results. My dissertation wasn’t as momentous, but there’s still some good nuggets in there (see my previous post on publishing not-so-hot work).

    For the past year, we have been meeting on the first workday of each month for ten minutes. We have a specific agenda:

    1. Discuss progress on last month’s goals.
    2. Discuss current obstacles.
    3. Set individual goals for next month.

    Ten minutes is not a large time investment. This group provides social support while re-experiencing the trauma of our dissertation processes. Also, even though the original process for writing our dissertations was painful and lengthy, each of us have found the revision process much easier than expected.

    This writing group format allows for different working styles. One coworker I will call Dr. Super-Duper-Motivated. If her monthly goal is revise her introduction, we know she will likely also have restructured the discussion, moved some things around, found new supporting literature, and gestated a human being. The other coworker may read this blog, so I’ll just call him Dr. Really-Magnanimous. He has had a bit of difficulty finding the time to work on his dissertation-based paper, even though he wants to get it off his plate. His goal is often “Work on the paper for one hour.”

    Another feature of this group is that we can brainstorm motivational techniques. Dr. R-M once feared he wouldn’t have time to work on his paper for 30 minutes. I “helped” him by sending an email to his friends stating that if he *did* work for 30 minutes, I would bring in Twister Donuts Bacon Maple Bars for them. If he didn’t complete his goal, there would be no bacon doughnuts, and it would be all his fault.

    Twister Doughnuts Bacon Maple Bar

    Twister Doughnuts Bacon Maple Bar

    Bacon. Doughnuts.

    He completed the goal.

    You’re welcome.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: