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In my more than sixteen years of offering dissertation coaching services, and having helped more than 1000 ABD’s in that time, there are two areas which stand out as the most undervalued aspects of the dissertation process.

Usually, clients seek out coaching when they have either been unable to begin or progress on their project, or when they have made some progress, but then hit a block that they can’t overcome. No matter what are the circumstances of their dissertation derailment, I know to begin by looking in one of two places to find the solution with them.

The first place is their feelings. As I often share in my in-person workshops, many times, ABD’s lose focus and stop their dissertation work because something is going on in their feelings. Perhaps they are struggling with imposter syndrome- feeling like a fraud. Maybe they are worried about money or their future job prospects. Maybe they are experiencing some relationship challenges, or some personal health challenges. Or maybe they recently received critique or feedback that hit them hard.

Any of these situations (and others beside), can lead to difficulties in progressing on the dissertation. If you just received difficult feedback from your advisor, for instance, it’s tough to imagine that you would be immediately ready to revise your project and turn it back in for criticism round #2. Dissertation resilience is an important topic, and, of course, being resilient is better than not. But sometimes, too many things happen at once, or you’re just not able to recover from feedback as quickly as usual.

Your feelings can and do impact your dissertation process. This is why it’s important to manage your own self care, and to monitor your feelings as you go. Unresolved feelings can show up in self-destructive and self-sabotaging ways.

That is the first place to look when your dissertation process isn’t moving- are there feelings you’re having that need exploration?

The second area that is often undervalued is work habits. Many ABD’s just, simply, do not have the work habits necessary to make consistent and sustained progress on the dissertation. It takes a certain level of organization, a certain level of discipline, and a certain level of routine in order to make progress regularly. Good work habits might include elements like working on your dissertation at least a few times per week, even in small timeframes. Working in the same place and at the same time each day. Building in time to read and take notes, and keeping that separate from your writing time.

I go over many good work habits in my book, Get it Done Faster: Secrets of Dissertation Success.

If you know what you need to do to finish your dissertation, but you’re just not doing it- I’d suggest taking a look at your feelings first, and then your work habits. If your progress is delayed, it’s likely one of these two areas which are holding you back.

If you could use assistance in finishing your dissertation, consider my dissertation coaching services. They’ve helped more than 1000 ABD’s become PhD’s- and with a better than 99% success rate, it’s likely I can help you too. Learn more: Dissertation Coaching Services