When a LinkedIn top contributor recently asked what are the biggest hurdles in finishing your doctorate, the question garnered 49 responses on the Doctoral Students and Practitioners discussion board.
An equal number of participants replied overwhelmingly with problems related to time management and Chair management. Problems around time management stemmed from demands of family and unpredictable life circumstances. Problems around the Chair included committee and IRB issues and generally pertained to a lack of timely feedback, disagreement about feedback, and Chairs leaving the University.
One respondent had SEVEN Chairs.
Other students have trouble with creating and getting permission for the survey instrument, finding participants for data collection, health issues, and finances. Depending on the day, each of us has faced nearly all of these problems.
I think it is important to share as a community how we face these problems in moving forward and look at these common obstacles as a series to offer possible solutions and suggestions. Since time management ranked high, here are a few tips from working freelance writer Michelle Rafter.
1. Eliminate distractions. For me, this meant closing myself off to Facebook. Michelle also suggests leaving only one tab open on your computer, which of course would be the page on which you are writing. No Internet, no email. By the way, Facebook – you may know – will try to suck you back in, so let a friend or trusted dissertation coach create a new password that only he or she will know. Add this person on to your account to keep you in check and slap you if you get back on there. The new person on your account will be notified if you try to change your password. It works for me; I’m nearly a year FB sober due to my personal pride of refusing to have my husband see me give up my dissertation goal for social media. I am fully confident that I would be stuck in proposal-land if I were still active on Facebook.
2. Time yourself. Get a real timer from the kitchen or on the stove. Your smart phone has a timer, but that phone is put away as a distraction, remember? Only you know how long you can research and write, but go for at least thirty minutes without a break.
3. Partner. Who cares the most if you get this degree? Of course, the answer is you, but who is next? A spouse? Best friend? Find someone who will ask you every week and that you can check in with by phone, email, text, lunch, Skype, smoke signals, anything to let a trusted – and tough – partner that you are making progress. Let your partner know what day you will contact them and that, if you don’t, they should call you and shame you!
More on time management tips for writing next week. In the meantime, share what works for you.