Getting your doctorate while working full-time
The month of May marks graduations and commencement ceremonies all over the country. How wonderful for students to celebrate their academic achievements and embark on new adventures!
As a higher ed. administrator or faculty, you always think of your students this time of year, but this year is slightly different because you also wonder how soon you’ll be able to walk with your PhD. or Ed.D. in hand.
Deciding to get your Doctorate Degree was a big decision. It seemed essential to advance your career and you knew you would be proud of this accomplishment but the time involved and the financial investment were – and still are – considerable.
Why it is so difficult
When you completed your coursework, you had classes to attend, papers to write by specific deadlines, and while it required much work and dedication, somehow, it was easier than writing your dissertation.
Now you find yourself procrastinating because you have an incredibly busy life with your full-time job and your family. People place demands on you. Projects need your attention. There is too much on your plate and the only thing you can push back to later is your dissertation because you are doing it alone and nobody is either encouraging you or pressuring you to get it done.
And in all honesty, spending your nights and weekends doing research and writing chapters that your dissertation chair will rip apart shortly after isn’t exactly your idea of fun. In fact, you’d rather do just about anything than sit down at your desk and write. You chose a research question your found interesting but the passion is gone.
How to follow-through and get to the finish line
If you want to get your dissertation done once and for all, so that you can finally graduate and live happily ever after, follow these steps.
1. Face the truth
Take a good hard look at the truth. Every time you tell yourself you are going to write but you don’t, you let yourself down and you open the door to self-criticism and regret. If this happens frequently, you may accidentally become a master at beating yourself up.
Declare that enough is enough. You will no longer make excuses. Avoidance isn’t a good strategy so you are going to face the truth and take action. This is your breakthrough moment!
2. Use pain as motivator
As a coach, I prefer to use rewards or pleasure to motivate than pain, but the undeniable truth is that pain is a powerful motivator. Look at what is going to happen if you keep procrastinating.
You will feel terrible about the lack of progress. Every time someone asks you if you’re done, you’ll have to shamefully say no. Your identity and self-worth may be affected by your lack of results. You’ll have to keep paying tuition longer to be enrolled in the program and have access to your dissertation chair. That’s a lot of money to pay for being home at night watching Netflix. And the stipend you will receive for having a Doctorate… well, it isn’t coming any time soon if you don’t make serious changes.
3. Create a compelling vision of success
Now that you know what you don’t want to see happen, start thinking about what you do want to see happen. Create a strong vision of what you want to do and the benefits you will receive. Imagine how good it will feel to have structure and write regularly, feeling joy from making progress and knowing that you keep getting closer and closer to your goal. Feel proud of your dedication and courage.
Imagine what it will feel like to be called Doctor. Think about how free you will feel when your nights and weekends are yours to use as you wish. Consider the type of role model you will be for others and how you can have positive influence on their achievements as well. Focus on all the reasons you had to get started in the first place. Let the upcoming rewards pull you into your vision of success.
4. Create structure and systems
Identify what has been getting in the way of you working on your dissertation and find solutions. For example, if you think you don’t have time, make time! Once writing is officially a high priority, you need to block time on your calendar to write. These blocks of time will be non-negotiable. They can’t be allocated to something else.
Create accountability so that you can’t escape your commitment. You can ask a friend (choose carefully and avoid enablers) to check up on you, or you can announce publicly what your writing goals and milestones are. Following-through will be less painful than having to explain yourself publicly if you procrastinate. Or if you need more than that to keep you moving forward, simply work with a coach. It’s much cheaper than tuition and it will bring you success and peace of mind sooner.
5. Keep a strong mindset
Being motivated for one day is easy but maintaining momentum for months takes a strong mindset. Start by deciding that you will take responsibility for your progress or lack thereof. You will not make any excuses, blame people or circumstances, or let yourself engage in limiting self-talk.
To keep a strong mindset you need to focus on your compelling vision of success every single day. Don’t lose touch with your reasons for wanting to graduate sooner than later. Pay attention to your thoughts and watch were your focus goes. Make sure your attention is on progress, strength, responsibility, and celebrating progress. Stay away from people and media sources that lower your energy and get in the way of your success.
Click here to learn how I can help you get your dissertation done in a timely manner. If you would like to speak with me, simply click here to schedule a complimentary call. You are so close to the end! Let me help you cross the finish line!
About the author: Since 2010 Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.