Autumn Dissertation Momentum


For those of us involved in academia, autumn is truly the start of the new year. Think about it. January isn’t really the best time to start anew. In the northern hemisphere, the colder, darker months can leave us feeling lackluster and depressed. On top of that, we’re fresh off of the holidays, when we may have overspent and overindulged. When it comes to January, it’s a wonder we attempt to create a new start at all.

Enter the fall season. These back-to-school months seem fresh and unencumbered. We enjoy the suffusion of fellow students teeming about and the charged atmosphere of beginning new classes. Even as mature graduate students likely working more independently off-campus, there is a sense of new possibility.

This October, how can you keep that fresh, back-to-school-feeling? Look no further!

5 Steps to Keep your Inner Student Alive

Reconnect with your supervisor and peers.
Many graduate students working on their dissertations gradually become quite isolated from other students in their program, as well as their supervisor and committee members. (Of course, reasons for this vary.) Reach out to them now. Set up a meeting with your key advisor to discuss your current status, timelines and progress. Consider arranging an accountability or writing group with peers. If possible, arrange to meet another student in your program in person to discuss challenges and successes, et al.

Re-engage with your dissertation draft.
Move past your inner resistance. It will feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but after a summer of outdoor busy-ness and family activities, fall is the perfect time to get back into the writing groove. Start by reviewing where you left off: do you want to pick things up again there or perhaps dive into a different section? Remember that the dissertation writing process does not have to be sequential. Try to schedule a regular writing block of even an hour or 90 minutes into your day. Slot it formally into your calendar. Reward yourself for meeting your daily writing goals. It is amazing how momentum can build with a regular writing practice – and how quickly the weight of procrastination can lift!

Venture outside your usual haunts.
Nothing expands our mental horizons more than exploration. It gives us a chance to reinvent ourselves; to see the world through eyes anew. On top of that, the discovery of new places and people provides a refreshing influence that can shift our understanding. When we return home, we are renewed.  Tight budget? Most of have a massively under-explored area within a 50 mile circumference. Be a tourist in your own hometown! 

Devote some time to sharing what you know.
When we teach others, it solidifies our knowledge base and increases our confidence. What skills can you share with the world? This doesn’t have to be academic in nature. (Think of hosting a book group or teaching a kids’ watercolour class.) Whatever you know, pass it on.

Broaden your social circle.
Socializing with fresh, new humans can break down all sorts of internal boundaries. Befriend someone you might not otherwise. It’s easy to find people with similar viewpoints, but dare to reach out beyond your usual circle. Join that hiking club; try birdwatching; volunteer at your local food bank.
Variety = Spice of Life.

Feeling rusty (post-pandemic) when it comes to making new friends? This article provides some very specific tips. 

Get involved in creative pursuits.
Watch a foreign film. Admittedly, this is a more passive tip but international movies are a fantastic way to get acquainted with different ways of being. More than just showing you a different location, a film from another country often contains tantalizing nuances related to social cues and dynamics, mannerisms and language.

Commit to wrapping up your dissertation project. (You knew this was coming…) 
For most of us, any unfinished long term project (such as a dissertation) continues to weigh on us heavily the longer it is delayed. We declare we’re going to get to it and yet another week (or month or year) passes and procrastination takes over. Take steps this fall to move forward in a regular, sustained way. This could involve working with an accountability partner, breaking up large tasks into smaller pieces to reduce overwhelm, and trying to integrate the dissertation into your daily life.

If you want to ready to complete your dissertation, let’s get you to the finish line. Contact me and we will make it happen together!



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