Planning to do the dissertation can sometimes be more fun than actually sitting down to work on it. When you feel this way, it’s easy to procrastinate and avoid what you should be doing.

One of the main reasons people avoid anything is because the perceived rewards of completing the task are not greater than the perceived effort it would take to complete the task. Stated more simply: procrastination arises when you don’t feel your effort will give you adequate rewards.

I just returned from a psychology continuing education program and in that program, the instructor talked about the idea that people who were able to delay gratification were shown to be more successful in life over time. The research was completed on children, but the results probably apply to adults, too.

After all, you’ve delayed gratification multiple times to get to this point, haven’t you? And you’ve probably been reasonably successful until now. Something about the dissertation is different, though. It can be difficult to delay gratification one more time.

My solution? Don’t delay ALL your gratification. It sounds simple, but it works. Build in rewards for your dissertation progress, and tie these, directly, to your goal achievements within the project. You finished writing a section? Go out to lunch with a friend. You finished writing a chapter? Take the weekend off. You broke through a difficult transition and found an elegant solution to the problem? Call a friend and get some praise.

We are social animals, and one of the most important keys to our happiness is our relationships. Use your relationships/relationship activities as ways to reward your dissertation progress. You’ll have more fun, and will finish faster, too.

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