To Survive The Summer Doldrums
happens when everyone, including your dissertation advisor, disappears for the
summer? For all too many students I have known, this is the time when they feel
most isolated and alone. When the weather is nice and the library is empty, enthusiasm
for doing a dissertation vanishes and you find your dissertation becalmed in still
you make this summer count? In today's column, I would like to suggest three tools
you might consider adding to your dissertation survival kit: a dissertation support
group, a dissertation coach, and a dissertation summer camp.
A group is a powerful source of motivation; and identifying with individuals who
are experiencing their own dissertation journeys tends to keep everyone on course.
Some programs actually provide dissertation support groups or dissertation seminars,
however, some of the most effective support groups are those that individuals
like yourself create to avoid the isolation, loneliness and sense of overwhelm
and to maintain the necessary focus to sustain themselves even when everyone else
is on vacation.
are no rules about how to structure a support group, but if you decide to take
the initiative to create your own support group, you might begin by trying to
find a group of 4-6 doctoral candidates who are similarly committed to maintaining
their productivity over the summer months and are willing to contribute to such
a group. Since you may have some dropouts, you may want to recruit 6-8 members
to begin with. If the group is to sustain all of you, it is important that meetings
be scheduled on a regular basis and that an agenda be set up in advance to determine
who is presenting when. You will find that this an excellent venue for presentations
and critical feedback as well as for sharing expertise on subjects such as effective
oral presentations, reviewing statistics or setting up a bibliographic database.
The group may
also help members brainstorm ways of handling diplomatic problems with advisors
and provide a source of information about the unspoken politics of various programs.
Another effective strategy to overcome the gloom and doom of the summer months
is to hire your very own personal, totally loyal and dedicated dissertation coach.
A coach that you meet with on a regular
basis can drastically boost your productivity by providing support and helping
you set up a structure with realistic goals. Some of the things you can expect
from working with a coach are:
that comes from regular feedback and acknowledgement
knowing that you will have to report to your coach on a regular basis
down huge tasks into do-able chunks
that comes with deadlines and accountability
from an external, uninvolved professional
to someone who is familiar with the intricacies of the dissertation process
another strategy for surviving the summer months is to organize your own dissertation
summer camp far away from the pressures of family, work, e-mail, cell phones,
television, traffic and all the rest of it. Find a nurturing setting in the mountains,
on the desert, or near the ocean and identify a few like-minded scholars who are
willing to support each other's writing. Create a structure for rising early and
sustaining long days of writing. Allow for group breaks for communal meals and
walks or other forms of exercise that will stimulate the creative juices. Set
aside time to discuss your work and your progress with the group and to foster
the sense of community and shared intellectual purpose. A week intensive writing
camp may be just what you need to dramatically increase your productivity and
reduce your sense of isolation during those long, hot summer days.
best advice I can give you is to be proactive in setting up a structure that will
support your dissertation before the summer arrives and the doldrums set in. So
be resourceful in choosing and creating tools to bootstrap your dissertation this
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