As a graduate student, you’re likely incredibly familiar with the concept of delayed gratification- the process of putting off until later what you might otherwise enjoy now. Research shows that toddlers who are able to delay gratification actually turn out, most often, to be more successful. And, certainly, good things come to those who wait.

Except where the dissertation is concerned. Yet, so many of you have resigned yourself to the process taking ‘forever’. You keep working and working and working, but make no appreciable progress. Or, otherwise, you keep putting off your progress for another day. Another week. Another month. More years.

It doesn’t have to take a long time- you don’t need forever.

My experience has been that most dissertations can be completed in a year or less. That’s from idea/concept to defense. Of course, you can always take longer if you want- but why would you want to?

Sure, I know of the ‘bad job market’ and your fear that you won’t have anything to do after you get your Ph.D.

But really, do you hold back growth and progress just because you’re afraid of what comes next?

Think of it this way. I have a tree in my backyard that is about 50 feet tall. Recently, we had some bad weather, and a huge branch broke off. The tree was badly damaged, but still standing.

When the tree was sprouting out of the ground, should it have thought, “Hmm… I might grow really tall, and then get hit by bad weather, and my branch might break off. That’s dangerous. So maybe I’ll just stay low to the ground.”

It’s a funny example, maybe, but isn’t that sometimes how you think of the dissertation?

As in, ‘I don’t know what I’ll do after I finish, so I just won’t finish…”?

You don’t need forever to finish the dissertation. You just need some focused discipline, consistent progress, and somewhere between 6-9 months.

Don’t try to hold back growth because you’re afraid you won’t know what to do after.

The pathway to what’s next always opens up when we do what’s right in front of us.

What’s the next step you can take to finish your dissertation? Write it down.

Then go do it.