One of the things I’ve noticed is that when you’ve been away from the dissertation for awhile, it’s more and more difficult to get back to it, isn’t it?

And when you finally do make yourself get back to it, you often experience frustration and stress because the time you just spent was nowhere near as productive and useful as you thought it would be.

These feelings of frustration and stress compound on your existing anxiety and procrastination, and you find yourself briefly touching in with your dissertation now and then, not really making any progress, and then spiraling out until the next time.

This is something I write about in my book, Get it Done Faster, but let me share more about the concept with you here, too. The reason that time you spend is not that productive is because you have not properly prepared yourself to work.

One of the concepts I shared in my dissertation coaching group last week was that each of needs a certain amount of preparation- or even pre-preparation, in order to be productive in our scheduled work time.

I noticed it today, when I was trying to make progress on a writing project. As many of you do, I was conceiving of my writing project as one task- just sit down and write. Yet, when I sat down to write, I realized- “Oh. I needed to read that article.” and “Oh. I needed to look up that reference.” and “Oh. I never finished my outline.”

That, actually, is what sparked the idea for this post- even I, who coach and teach this concept, sometimes forget about the idea of preparing to be ready to work.

In actuality, something like “writing” is actually a series of tasks grouped together. First, there is the outlining. Then the gathering of materials. Then the organizing of materials. THEN the actual writing.

Yet, many dissertation writers go into the process without adequate preparation, and then sit down and are unable to make good use of the time they have set aside.

So, instead, what I recommend is this: when you have scheduled a time to write, spend a few minutes each day prior preparing to actually work. That means, go ahead and take 15-20 minutes a day and get your outline done. Gather your materials. Organize your materials. In short, do a little every day so that you are prepared to actually write.

This separates out the tasks into discrete, doable pieces, and makes it more likely that when your scheduled writing time comes around, you are well prepared to actually write.