Saturday I attended a dissertation writing workshop and I thought it was pretty helpful. That might be because I haven’t started writing my dissertation, but whatever, I’ll share anyway. In general the woman leading the workshop was very encouraging. She mentioned impostor syndrome, pointed out that people who get to the dissertation stage have had a whole series of successes, and so should avoid negative beliefs about themselves. Basically, don’t attribute problems to anything about your own value as a person or an academic.

Time Management
1. Time management strategies usually focus on getting organized enough to do everything you want to do. This doesn’t work because there just isn’t enough time to do everything you would like to do. Accept this and prioritize.

2. Academics have too many interests. This is good because all those interests grow into new projects, new teaching techniques, new grants, but it makes it easy for academics to get distracted. People outside of academia don’t have many interests. (This part I disagree with, but I can see how statistically this could be true.)

3. Manage your guilt: Often we can’t sit down to complete one project because it generates guilt about other projects/tasks that you should be working on. This is often framed as commitment or assertiveness issues. But it’s normal to have trouble when you are deciding between two things you might actually want to do. This is not a reason to doubt your commitment or ability to choose.

4. Remember the 80/20 rule. Focus your efforts on small amounts of time, but use those times to work effectively.

1. Plan separately, plan briefly, and plan for starting (don’t try to plan comprehensively because your work won’t go exactly as you plan anyway.)

2. Plan for 45 minute units-she had a long explanation for this. Basically even though it may feel like you are just getting into a groove after 45 minutes, your productivity will actually be going down. Apparently your focus and attention can still be increasing but your actual cognitive abilities are slowing down at that point. This led her to all sorts of interesting observations about how her writing clients get into trouble when they have too much time available. She said she never worries about clients who claim they are busy, have kid, or other obligations.

3. Plan for the number of hours per week you will work(more hours isn’t better, prioritize your tasks.)

4. Plan for your dissertation work week. When will the week start? When will your day off be? How much time will you work each day?

5. Plan for time off, preferably a whole day off. Do something restorative. The number one restorative thing you can do is spend time in nature. Other options include exercise, art, or reading for pleasure. If you can’t take a whole day off, do something extravagant.

6. Plan a cutoff time for your dissertation work each day. This makes sure you don’t lose touch with reality. It confronts the feeling that you are always working and at the same time never getting anything done. It will gradually move you towards starting earlier because you will know that there is a real stop time and so be more likely to get started in a timely fashion.