Every single business day I speak on the phone, in person, or via email with an average of twenty clients about their dissertations. One of the first questions I ask is: What was the date you started working on it? If they have already sent me their proposal or pre-proposal or concept paper for assessment I usually know the answer in advance, because the dates of the source material will give me a solid clue. Our average client usually started work on their dissertation a little more than four years, and in many cases has not gone too far down the line past the Proposal.
The problem of putting off one's disseration procrastination comes about in many ways. Most of our clients began the dissertation project with significant energy and enthusiam. All their course work has now been finished. A good number of doctoral candidates are under the mistaken impression that their dissertation will be similar to a long, detailed term paper. It cannot be that hard to write. It sonds like a good idea to relax and take time off for a coupe of months to freshen up......after all, I have earned this! The problem of dissertation procrastination has already started when that decision is made.
The fact is that project delays can also come from other outside sources too. The selection of an advisor and the committee should be rather simple and very straightforward, but that is not usually the case. The obvious choice for a topic that was perfect last year is now out of the scholarly buzz, or you are in a new job and no longer have the access to your target population as you once did. An entire year has now gone by (faster than you thought) and the Proposal that you had planned to write a year ago is still just that - a plan. Your original advisor has quit or retired. All these external changes and many others can make your schedule a disaster!
And what about delays caused by family pressures? There are many things that can come up. Examples are feeling guilty for 'neglected' your family, your loving spouse, your children, your parents, your partner, and your friends, all while you completed your course work. Now that it is completed, they urge you to take some time off. And as you progress up the ladder in the academic and/or the corporate world, the demands on your time begin to increase.
Some Solutions -
It is extremely important to resolve to start the process of writing your dissertation today. Stop thinking and worrying about the time you have missed and simply concentrate on getting things done today and tomorrow.
Start with small and easily achieved goals. One good example of this would be a decide that you will work for at least 30 minutes per day (30, 60, 90 minutes, your decide), five days a week, on the beginning phases of the project. Set up a written schedule for yourself, suited to your activities, and with a reasonable time frame.
Simply start at the very beginning. Your very first goal should be choosing the best advisor, one with the ability to meet your specific needs..
Once chosen, the first thing to do is schedule a meeting with your advisor. The goal of that meeting is to establish a proposal completion date that you can both agree on comfortably.
Discuss topic choice with your advisor, keeping in mind that your advisor is there to guide you through the dissertation process.
Schedule regular meetings with your advisor. Tape record all meetings, and follow up each meeting or other contact with a letter outlining what was discussed and what your advisor directed you to do.
Make the effort to obtain the support and assistance of your spouse, family, colleagues, and friends at all steps in your dissertation process. One thing is true, and that is you can't go down this road by yourself, alone.
Understand that it is not a normal part of the process to have constant feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation and frustration. Be warned that these are danger signs indicating you must get a better support system in place.
Examine the reasons why you are procrastinating. Do you need better ideas? more time? Money? Motivation?
More Outside Support? Better organization, research or writing skills?
If so, get help!