When you’re busily working on your dissertation, it’s expectable that you’ll become extremely focused and may neglect some of your closest relationships. You don’t do this on purpose, of course, but you will sometimes need blocks of uninterrupted time to make significant progress, and your spouse or significant other may feel neglected. This can lead to even more feelings of strain, and may lead to problems in your relationship and/or avoidance or delay of your dissertation work.
This can be a challenging problem for the ABD. You want to hurry up and finish the dissertation, perhaps, but you can’t find a way to balance what needs to be done along with spending enough time with your partner. This can leave you feeling perpetually scattered, unfocused, and stressed out.
When this kind of problem occurs, it, most often, indicates that two things are needed: clear goals and clear timelines. While it can sometimes be tiresome to communicate about your goals and intended progress, you need to make sure your partner knows what you’re working on and about how much time you’ll need to work on it. His or her responsibility, then, is to give you the time and space to accomplish your goal. Your responsibility, then, becomes to try and do this within the time frame you’ve indicated. Most of the time, our spouses or partners are more agreeable to our working deadlines when they know 1) how important the work is, 2) how long it will take, and 3) what kind of reward or payoff they can expect when you’re finished.
A good strategy is to tell your partner “I want to work on chapter 3 for the next two hours. My plan is to get through the first three sections. I should be finished by 2 o’clock. Do you want to go and have lunch after that?”
This way, you’re setting a clear goal for yourself, communicating clearly about this goal to your partner, and offering him/her a reward for giving you the time/space you request. (Incidentally, you’re also rewarding yourself for your progress, which is definitely a win/win!)
This strategy can work for any kind of relationship- you can negotiate for a good outcome for all involved. Remember: all relationships require negotiation and compromise. Meeting these needs head on will reduce the likelihood of fights, resentments or anger marring your relationships (and your dissertation process).
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