Make Your List and Check It Twice: Designing a work plan for the holidays

Though November has blessed us with some beautiful, warm, sunny days, fall seems to have begun its inevitable fade into winter.  More and more conversations seem to be turning to turkey and travel plans, and last night my husband and I drove by our first house of the year with a display of Christmas lights. The next six weeks can present some real challenges for many ABDs.  A hallmark of the month of December, along with the colored lights and Christmas trees, is the dramatic disruption in our daily routine.  Whether you’re traveling to visit others or whether your home will be the gathering spot, without careful forethought and planning, it can be tough to keep that dissertation moving forward. Unfortunately, many ABDs simply end up caught between feelings that they should be writing, and wanting to enjoy the holidays.  This is the worst [...]

By | December 6th, 2016|Categories: Dissertation|0 Comments

Revel in the Beauty of Imperfection

Many traditions, Persian and Navajo to name a couple, have a practice that every hand-woven carpet, no matter how beautiful must contain one flaw somewhere in its design. The idea is that only the Divine is perfect, and that all other things are inherently flawed, thus the carpet must reflect the world’s natural imperfection by containing at least one flaw. Though few of us these days spend our time weaving carpets, how freeing would it be to approach our daily work with such an open acceptance of imperfection? Now if you're like most dissertation writers, you're probably thinking, "I don't have to deliberately engineer a flaw in my dissertation. There are so many, and they are so obvious!" First, your dissertation probably is not nearly so flawed as you believe it to be, and what flaws it does have are undoubtedly not as obvious [...]

By | April 1st, 2016|Categories: Dissertation, Dissertation Procrastination|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Seven Tips for Selecting a Dissertation Director

I survived the Ph.D. from hell. I can attribute this success to a number of factors, including my own persistence and hard work. However, there is one factor without which none of the others would have mattered. I had outstanding dissertation directors. It is natural to assume at the outset that our dissertation experience will go smoothly, that you will not be plagued by department politics, or problems with your dissertation topic. Whether or not that turns out to be the case for you, having a good dissertation director will both get your dissertation off to a good start, and benefit you in the event that you run into hurdles along the way. Having a good working relationship with your dissertation director is integral to your success in graduate school. To help you find the best match possible, I offer the following seven tips [...]

By | March 24th, 2016|Categories: Dissertation|Tags: , |0 Comments

Beat Dissertation Procrastination, One Tomato at a Time

Does any of this sound like you? “I’ll start writing as soon as I’m done browsing the Huffington Post.” “I’ll just finish writing these e-mails, then I’ll start writing.” “I love this Dr. Who episode!  I’ll just watch a few minutes …”  “I can’t work with all this clutter in my office.  Let me just spend some time straightening up, and then I’ll write.” Image courtesy of Ambro at And three hours later, the only thing that’s changed is that your stress and guilt of gone up, because you still haven’t started working.  If all this sounds too familiar, try using this simple technique to beat Procrastination one small step at a time.  Whether your own challenge is that of procrastination, or that of having too many demands placed on your time, the Pomodoro technique can help you successfully manage your [...]

By | October 27th, 2014|Categories: Dissertation Procrastination|1 Comment

New Year’s in September

Though the time we usually associate with taking stock and establishing new habits is the New Year, for those on an academic calendar the new academic year provides us with a similar opportunity. Remember grade school, high school, and even the undergrad days? Didn’t each new school year feel like an exciting wonderful new beginning? When I look back on those days, each New Year always felt like a new adventure just waiting to unfold with all the new challenges, learnings and fun the coming year would bring. One of the wonderful things about those days was that each year was like a little self-contained unit. So it didn’t matter if your sophomore year was awful—for me it was my junior year—when that next year rolled around, you got a completely fresh start. If you’re in the middle of writing your dissertation, those days [...]

By | September 21st, 2014|Categories: Dissertation|Tags: , , |0 Comments

How to Juggle Your Dissertation and Everything Else in Your Life

Once upon a time graduate study was a somewhat monkish experience: You immersed yourself thoroughly in a topic about which you were passionate, you received mentoring by expert faculty, and perhaps you engaged in a bit of teaching. But how many doctoral students today get to live in an ivory tower set apart from the hustle and bustle of “real life”? For most, researching and writing the dissertation has to be fit into a life that is already full with daily obligations: rushing to pick kids up from school or sports (or caring for an infant or two), managing the household and meals for an entire family, and, for many, putting twenty or forty hours in an unrelated paid position. Where Did the Time Go? Does the above description resonate with you? Are there nights when you’ve staggered into bed, discouraged that you did [...]

By | September 3rd, 2014|Categories: Dissertation|Tags: , , |1 Comment