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Archive for March 23rd, 2009

This week I am still on DISCIPLINE (and likely will be for a few more weeks) and so let’s turn to the next quiz question:

I’m good at controlling perfectionism, realizing that some things are good enough.

Actually, I am pretty good at controlling perfectionism. My advisor thinks that I have a problem in this area and that I tend to overwrite and overthink everything. But I think that the core issue is really procrastination and a difficulty with follow-through – I have problems finishing what I started.

I think that the reason for that (the procrastination) is a combination of fear of failure and fear of success. Now I know it sounds crazy that I would be both at the same time, but at heart I am afraid of change. But it is clear that I have screwed myself in some ways as a result – the research was done 3.5 years ago and I could be finished and employed by now. And now I will be on the job market (after an unsuccessful attempt this year) in the worst year in recent history for getting a job, let alone an academic job. So I have issues. But perfectionism isn’t one of them. So on to the next question:

I avoid putting things off or waiting until the last minute.

Yeah. I gave myself a 1 on this one (1-5 with 5 being totally agree) so, as noted above, I clearly have a major problem with procrastination. 

She points out that it doesn’t matter if you check off 9 of your 10 tasks on your To Do list, if the 10th is the one that really matters. She writes:

Your work as an employee will consistently outpace your coworkers’ work if  you spend your time focusing on the critical few tasks that lead to the highest performance, value, and output.

That sounds a bit dog-eat-dog but I sort of appreciate the ruthlessness implied. No silly Men-in-Black “to be the best of the best of the best, SIR” mission statements for her. Let’s rewrite that for the “almost finished” Ph.D. and job candidate:

Your attractiveness as a job candidate will consistently outshine other candidates’  attractiveness if  you spend your time focusing on the critical few tasks that lead to the highest performance, value, and output. 

In other words: FINISH the damn DISS and get some articles out for publication!

I think that the following mantra sums it up:

My (Brain) Work Must Come First

I should probably have that tattooed – backwards, so I can see it in the mirror – on my forehead.

She then has tips for specific issues:

Is the task overwhelming?

Umm, yeah. So she recommends breaking it into smaller pieces. Tried it, doesn’t really work for me – the big project still looms and stuns me into paralysis. 

Is the task distasteful?

Well, yes, in the sense that it is so daunting and overwhelming and soooo much is at stake. She recommends that you schedule a five minute work session with yourself, but that you have to sit down and work for those five minutes. Good advice, as I mentioned before, once I get started it is fairly easy for me to keep going.

Is the task trivial?

No.

And finally:

Is there no accountability in completing the task?

Well, that used to be the case, but it is getting embarrassing at this point. Plus I have missed so many self-imposed deadlines that my advisor has sort of lost the faith. She was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised to receive my introduction today. So I have new deadlines and here they are for all the world to see (if anybody cares to look):

  • Chapter 4 to advisor – April 11
  • Chapter 5 to advisor – May 4

Yikes! That is going to be tough. But I am resolute. Once those two chapters are in, we will talk further deadlines.

So what is my task for this week? I need to work at least one hour every single day on the dissertation.  Of course will aim to spend many more hours per day, especially since I have the week off, but I will only commit myself to one hour per day. I need to finish grading and prepare for teaching but I will make sure that I will not let that overwhelm my life or even one single day. Instead, My Work Will Come First.

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