Whew, this summer is turning out to be a whirlwind of craziness!
While I should have been reading, writing, and drafting work related to my dissertation prospectus, I’ve found myself swamped with work from a summer research assistantship that I committed to – it’ll look good on my C.V., right?! – and running around with an eleven-month-old who loves to be taken on walks in 100 degree plus heat.
In short, I’m tired. Worn out. Kaput.
But hey, everyone’s stressed, right? Everyone has things to do and places to go! Moreover, if there’s one rule in this academic racket, it’s that there’s no crying in academia. Want a hug or some encouragement from your dissertation director? Well, it ain’t gonna happen. You better pull yourself up off the floor and push forward toward that Doctorate with everything you’ve got, baby!
Well, maybe that’s just how I’ve felt lately but I know that it’s a feeling shared by colleagues and academic friends from universities in the states and abroad. Although it can be tempting to give into the dissertation prospectus doldrums, I’ve found three effective ways to circumvent these feelings and push forward with confidence into the next – and perhaps most daunting – phase of graduate school. Dissertating!
- Throw a fit: Let me tell you that there absolutely is crying in academia. The struggle between living a healthy, well-adjusted life and being an academic is very real, so it’s important to avoid falling into that pit of despair that can keep you from completing a degree that you’ve spent so much time on. That’s why I encourage you to throw an all-out, screaming temper tantrum – when no one is around to feel your wrath, of course. Grab a punching pillow, some tissues, and go crazy. I know that for me, allowing myself to be truly upset and have a good cry helped me to move past the main issues and insecurities I was having related to the prospectus specifically and my future in academia more generally. After your tantrum, make sure to take at least twenty to thirty minutes to really think through the things that angered you. Write them down in a journal, talk to a friend, or see a therapist to work through these issues so that you can move forward with more confidence than before.
- Record Yourself: I don’t know about you but I have trouble stopping my mind from thinking, thinking, thinking. On top of that, I struggle to keep worthwhile thoughts in my head long enough to put them down on paper before they disappear forever. The solution? Grab a voice recorder! I’ve heard this before from other grad student colleagues, but now know it’s a thing – a glorious, amazing thing. Keep portable ones in your bag, next to your bed, and at the office so that you can record any dissertation chapter worthy ideas when they pop in your head which, for me, is typically in the car, shower, or at bedtime. There are even waterproof recorders so you can “keep up with yourself” while you’re washing your do!
- Grab Your Earplugs: Ear plugs have saved my life. OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic but they’ve definitely helped me get some serious work done. Before ear plugs, I couldn’t block out noise – any noise. Even studying at coffee shops invariably made me want to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations more than pay attention to my own reading. After discovering the magic of earplugs, I can focus, sleep, and even remain calm in stressful situations (i.e. baby crying fits). So if you struggle to concentrate or keep your chill, give earplugs a try and let me know how it goes!
I’ve successfully knocked out a 5-page draft of the prospectus by incorporating these three things into my schedule, so hopefully they’ll be just as effective once I start the real writing!
What tips do you have for overcoming “DPA”?
Drop me a line in the comments!