Five Steps To Dissertation Zen

 Sometimes you can only… wait.

They can’t win, and I must be Zen about this or I will quit after completing all of my credits and the first two chapters of my dissertation.  Again.  Here’s what I’m doing differently to be Zen during the times I wondered why I or anyone ever signed up for this misery.  


Breathe Through It

My shoulder is in pain from holding the phone for tech support.  As I wait, I breathe a count of four in, six out.  I learned it in yoga and it helps me as I wait to learn why my password is suddenly not passing.  All agents are busy assisting other customers.  The breathing gives me time to notice the little things, like the use of the word customers instead of students. 

Control Only Yourself

I have no control over the complicated computer systems that I use to email my Chair, upload papers, or pay my tuition.  Somehow the tuition payment system has never failed.  I can control my reaction.  What is going to happen here?  A lot of customers/students are slowed down by a system that is troubled temporarily and my work may be pushed back a(nother) week.  There are worse things.  All I can do is keep writing and re-writing.  I’m working on this degree mostly online, so I can practice gratitude that this is even possible in this day and age.  


Pay Attention to Details

Learning APA has taught me to pay attention to details.  My committee may not feel the same way, but I know that my attention to detail has increased greatly.  Before working on this massive project, I could not have cared less what should be italicized, parenthesized, or capitalized in a reference.  Once my ineptitude here slowed down my goals, I learned the importance of detail.  Maybe this has carried over to my work or personal life. 


Look Inside

Despite all of the frustration and years of work, there is a reason I started and will finish.  What is interesting is that, for me, and others I have spoken to, the reason changed for me from extrinsic career rewards to intrinsic research based rewards.  I actually want to know the outcome of my study because I care about it, and if it takes a week longer, I will still care about it.


Space Matters

Working on a clean desk is one thing, but changing the color of the space and items on the desk had a motivating effect on the mental environment.  I read that shades of blue and green promote the longest periods of focused work, so I repainted my workspace and decorated with book baskets and chalkboard walls.  I look forward to being in my own space and look forward to analyzing my data when I can start my study. Breathing a count of four in, six out until then. 


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