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About our Un-Dissertation site: Creating new brain habits to get the dissertation done

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The UnDissertation Blog

A collection of tips and tools for starting, creating, and finishing your dissertation or other mega-projects.

“What does coaching dissertation completion have to do with an evolving brain?”, you may be thinking.  It’s what I would call “brain-based coaching”. Working on any large important project demands the best from our brain - in how we talk to ourselves, how we approach our tasks, the strategies we use, etc. etc. It’s the perfect place for “no-equipment brain training”. So let’s get started changing your brain for more optimal performance…



A New Year's Offering

What might it mean to approach your dissertation whole-heartedly?

What does “whole-hearted” even mean?

Dr. Brene Brown has a great TED talk on just this topic and, at the risk of giving away the punch-line, a large part of what we need to feel connected and whole-hearted, even in the context of the dissertation, is to allow ourselves to feel vulnerable… to do what’s necessary, even without knowing what the outcome will be; to give up a longing to apply the “predict and control” mindset of research to our own life process and instead apply a willingness to do the work and see what emerges.

And vulnerability leads to other sorts of important elements we need to feel connected to the dissertation, to the committee, to the process of dissertating: the courage to be imperfect, compassion for ourselves (and then to others), authentic connection by letting go what we think “should be” to allow “what is” to be enough.

I invite you to actively listen to Dr. Brown’s talk — she’s funny and a great example of connecting with her audience through her own vulnerability. Listen with an ear to the process of doing a dissertation and let me know what you think — what popped out at you?


So You've Written a Draft...

…and now you need feedback.

This is almost always a tricky area for dissertationers.

You want feedback so you can get the work to a place where it’s “done”. (And it’s so nice to hear you’re on track and sounding smart! ;-)

You don’t want the feedback because sometimes it makes you feel inept or plops a bunch of re-working back in your lap.

What to do??

I’ve found many of the challenges are actually less about the work you are submitting and more about whether your advisor/reader knows how to give you useful constructive feedback that will move you ahead.

I remember with my own advisor getting pages and pages of the tiniest editorial word-smithing (“and” or “or”?) PLUS questions about what section this even went in. So frustrating!

Many years later, I can see that I partly contributed to my frustration by not knowing how to ask for feedback effectively, not “owning” my drafts (instead kind of writing for her approval — like a scribe instead of a colleague), and feeling compelled to make every change she suggested (even if that meant changing it back to the way I had it before!!).

Today, I came across a good article on reviewing someone else’s writing. It seemed to me that this is a good article to look at fro the other side as well. All the advice about how to review applies just as much as how to ask for review (aka how to teach your advisor what you need without being so direct about it).

So here it is: Talkin’ ‘Bout Writing: How to Discuss a Colleague’s Writing While Preserving Your Working Relationship and Career.

What are the most common purposes you want from your advisor’s review? What ways have you used to get that specific feedback?


Like Riding a Bike...?

I saw this comic today and couldn’t NOT think of all you dissertationers out there.

It’s sort of Just For Fun, but sort of Something to Think About…

Which version feels like you?

Which version feels “right”?

How can you create the version that’s Real?


Taking Baby Steps to Get It Done

What’s that mean, anyway…taking a baby step?

Most of the time people use this phrase to taking tiny, tiny little steps.

That’s probably a good and useful image when we imagine it from the adult perspective of walking beside a baby.

And it can be useful when we are wishing the dissertation would complete itself overnight or when we feel like we’re just not Making Progress.

But, as dissertations go, we’re not the adult who knows how to walk and take giant leaps whenever necessary.

We’re the baby….

Click to read more ...


The Overwhelm Monster

How To Generate Overwhelm:

In your head, make a big pile of vitally important stuff to do.

Identify with the belief that it must be done,
sooner than possible.

Put all your attention into imagining the future.

Focus on what you don’t yet know how to do,
keeping in mind that it is essential to know
what you don’t know.

- Jude Spacks, in Creativity Insightments newsletter, August 2009


I suspect you can see why I’m thinking dissertation here…the very opposite of the Growth Mindset, UnDissertation approach…

Feel like sharing how you control the Overwhelm Monster? (Note that it’s not a “taming” — you need to keep applying your strategies or it breaks out all over again — sneaky beast.)