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Academic Coaching & Writing

IV. Tackle Time

Mar 02, 2016 by Carol Ray Philips

While, theoretically, the amount of support you can get is infinite, the amount of time in a day, week, month, or year is finite. No doubt you've realized by now that one of the biggest challenges you'll meet as you prepare for life as a dissertator is managing your time effectively. Although working on your dissertation may not take more time per week than your coursework did, your dissertation is considerably more dependent on your structuring the time effectively.

Dedicate Daily Work Time

The expectation is that to complete your dissertation, you'll need to dedicate at least 10 hours a week to the process. If at all possible, plan to devote at least 15 hours per week on average. One key question is how to schedule those hours around your other ongoing commitments. Because most people find it difficult to concentrate for long time periods, you're better off scheduling daily 2-3 hour blocks during the week instead of ignoring your dissertation all week and dedicating yourself to it all weekend.

Assess Your Commitments

The first big step in tackling time is to assess your current regular commitments and, in all likelihood, the second is making some hard choices. Ask yourself: Are there any commitments that I can give up until after I've graduated? Dissertators may have to sacrifice activities that are very important to them—from participation in the church choir to weekly dinners with family—to gain more time for their dissertation process. Unfortuately, those who insist on maintaining all their commitments, jeopardize their chances of completing their degrees.

Withdraw from Unnecessary Commitments

Now that you've decided which commitments to withdraw from, let those who will be affected by your decisions know about the changes. Depending on the commitment, you might want to let them know how difficult it is for you to drop the commitment and ask that they support you in prioritizing your dissertation for the time being. Most people will understand your situation and graciously accept your decision.

Schedule Dissertation Work Hours on Your Calendar

After you've removed some of your commitments, don't close that planner yet, because you are about to take a very important step. Now you can schedule the hours that you will work on your dissertation. Yes, in the same way that you would write in a dentist appointment or your child's school’s open house, you will write in your dissertation hours. Doing so seals your commitment. You're no longer subject to the feeling of “I'll get to my dissertation today. . . whoops, I didn't . . . OK, tomorrow.” Instead, you follow the plan. If your calendar shows that you will work on your dissertation from 7-9 am today, you do it. And when finished, you check it off your list.

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