We’re a few days into the New Year and some of you are just getting back to work. I hope you are feeling enthusiastic and excited about your goals and plans for this new year. I hope, sincerely, that one of your goals is to finish your dissertation. In my experience, the longer you remain ABD, the longer you will be ABD. Why? Because life happens.

I’ve coached more than 50 ABD’s who had been ABD for more than 10 years. Some were in danger of losing their program status. While unexpected and unfortunate experiences can happen to anyone, I’ve seen a theme that suggests that the longer you are ABD, the more life stuff happens that continues to keep you from the dissertation.

Leave aside the fact that a few weeks away from the project makes you rusty (never mind months or years); when you fall out of the rhythm and process of working on your dissertation, it becomes so difficult to start up again.

You might have seen a flywheel machine at the gym. The flywheel works based on resistance. it takes a lot of energy initially to get the flywheel to move (and you might have felt this yourself when you needed to row 2000 meters in a couple of minutes!) The flywheel has a lot of drag which requires a lot of effort to get the wheel turning.

However, once you get the flywheel going long enough and regularly enough, the resistance diminishes and you are able to  keep up a steady pace. This is because flywheels “store” energy to keep the pace constant even when the input is not.

It’s the exact same thing with your dissertation process. When you have good working habits, and apply energy regularly, the force of those good habits and regular focus can keep you moving steadily forward, even when you aren’t sure exactly what you’re doing.

The very act of showing up each day and being committed to your work can help you build and sustain momentum over the long term.

The sooner you can complete your dissertation, the sooner you can get on with the rest of your life. This is why I don’t want you to wait any longer, but, instead, to focus this year and get it done. Don’t get too comfortable waiting for a long time, because the longer you wait; the more difficult it is to get that flywheel going again.