Day 2 in the Dissertation House. We welcomed Dr. Noah Collins from the University of Maryland College Park’s Counseling Services Center to talk about maintaining balance when writing your dissertation. He gave a humorous presentation on his approach to writing his dissertation. He said that he would give his advisor chapters to read and she would take some time before she gave him feedback. During the time he was waiting for feedback it felt like a vacation. While he was waiting, he would plan what he would do when he got the feedback. He had great ideas of enthusiastically getting right on top of making the copious revisions from his advisor. His ideal plan included visions of waking up early over the weekend and getting right to work. Instead, he would spend the weekend playing solitaire. Afterward, he would then beat himself up for not implementing his plan.
After going through this routine several times, he came to a realization that this plan was not going to work. He assessed the situation as a battle between his two selves. One self always wanted to do fun things. The other stoic self always wanted to work on the dissertation without any interruptions, any food, or any sleep. When one self dominated the situation the other self was not happy. He figured out that he had to find a solution to this constant battle that was going on in his head.
He realized that one does not have to win at the expense of the other. When fanciful side won the drill-sergeant called him lazy, wasteful, slacker, etc, When the drill-sergeant side won, the fanciful side lost and felt depressed and sad. He suggests that when you think about writing your dissertation and the fanciful side does not want to work, you should negotiate otherwise the fanciful side will go on strike by shutting down, by playing solitaire, or by experiencing depression.
He found that he had to negotiate with both sides of himself in order to complete his dissertation. When he listened to the drill-sergeant, he worked really hard during the morning so that he could reward himself with a night out with friends thereby letting the fanciful side have his due. In particular, he pointed out that he is a morning person. He mentioned that he would say to himself ” if I have to work in the evening, the rewards have to go WAY UP if I am going to work at night.” He suggests that if you are going to work against your natural tendencies i.e. working at night when you are a morning person or working in the morning when you are night owl you should restrict your activities to simple, easy tasks. Find a balance between the two sides of your dissertation writing process.