How to Write 5000 Words an Hour: Train Your Tortoise Brain | Issue 200
Through observing his own struggles and success, John Cleese—British actor, writer, and comedian (of Monty Python fame)—realized that his creativity acts like a tortoise that won't emerge until the coast is clear. A trained scientist, Cleese found that he first needed to create a "tortoise enclosure."
How can you entice your tortoise brain to venture forth to write your next chapter?
In 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter, Chris Fox, who penned his latest novel in just thirteen days, describes how to create your own tortoise enclosure:
1. Identify a time and place that your mind will associate with writing. Don't write in the same space you watch Netflix, he warns. Better to trudge to Starbucks, laptop in hand, at 7 a.m. every morning.
2. Erect barriers to prevent temptations. Use apps like Freedom to block distracting websites. Turn off notifications. Ask others to not disturb you while you write. Don't give in--every interruption sends you back to square one on the route to flow.
3. Set time boundaries. Fox starts his first half-hour sprint at 6:20 a.m., breaks for email and such, and then he completes one more sprint. His loved ones know to honor this sacred time, he says.
4. Eat that frog. Get your hardest task out of the way first thing each morning—or it will croak at you all day. (Fox credits Brian Tracy and Mark Twain for this one.)
TAKEAWAY: While your dissertation is not fiction (we hope), this strategy could work for many who struggle and sputter at the keyboard. As psychological conditioning principles would predict, eliminating competing stimuli and rewards for undesirable behavior should create the space for developing a writing habit that will strengthen with practice. [See Fox's book for more tips on writing productively.]
Shrink Any To-Do List in 4 Quick Steps: Use the "Four D's"
Our ABD clients always ask for time hacks. One of best ways to find more time is to pare down your To-Do lists by reviewing each item with "the four D's" in mind.
1. Delete anything not totally necessary.
2. Delegate as much as you can to family, staff, temporary hire, or other.
3. Defer whatever you can until you finish your top priorities. You won't forget them if you list them in "Later Start" or "Someday/Maybe" files.
4. Diminish tasks by cutting back on needed time and energy. For example, after breakfast, take five minutes to throw ingredients in a slow cooker—and then savor a healthy, steaming stew later. Save time, money, and energy, plus avoid settling for fast food. (Tip: Make enough for leftovers.)
Feeling Down? Beware Your Facebook Feed
If you turn to Facebook as a way to recharge yourself, beware. It turns out that our mirror neurons react to virtual emotions. Your FB friends' woeful posts are likely to demoralize you, while their happy news and silly pet videos can cheer you up, according to Lea Waters, Ph.D., director of the University of Melbourne's Centre for Positive Psychology.
In a Facebook study, 700,000 FB users' newsfeeds were altered—positive updates were deleted from some, negative posts from others. The result? People's posts tended to reflect what they were exposed to most. Read more here.
TAKEAWAY: Become aware of how social media affects your mood. Unfriend or limit posts from Negative Nancy's. Take responsibility for the likely effect of your posts. See if you can start an upward spiral. Meanwhile, if you want to jolt yourself from a blue mood, choose from this list:
Stop Kidding Yourself for Stalling: "All Reasons Are Excuses"
In The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life , Stanford Design School pillar Bernard Roth gives a swift kick in the pants to dawdlers. In every aspect of your life, Roth recommends adopting design thinking to start exploring possibilities and creating desired outcomes by tweaking successive iterations. Reflecting a definite bias toward action, he offers stark advice to pipe dreamers:
(1) Stop saying that you will try to do something. Assert that you will do it.
(2) Since "all reasons are excuses," stop using them—become a doer instead.
I define "achievement" as having a good life, feeling good about yourself and feeling in command of your life and your circumstances. So, if you want me to tell you who's in the way, it's you. ~ Bernard Roth, Ph.D.
TAKEAWAYS: Apply Rothian principles to your dissertation to get unstuck and get moving again. In short, no one cares how hard you are trying or how many excuses you can cough up for not progressing. Develop a growth mindset: Learning from successive attempts trumps waiting until you get it perfect. Enjoy more of this beloved professor's wisdom in his book.
Vitae: Not Just Another Academic Job Site
Don't miss Vitae—the free career management hub for PhD students, faculty, and administrators newly launched by The Chronicle of Higher Education. While you can upload your CV or resume, and search and apply for open jobs, the site offers much more: Join a discussion group, share syllabi with faculty members at other institutions, showcase your work and achievements, create an academic social network, follow people whose work interests you or with whom you might like to collaborate, use the dossier service, and receive digest news updates on topics in higher education that interest you.
No CHE account needed to register for Vitae—and it is free. Just sign up and create your profile. You can then customize Vitae services to meet your needs. Check it out at
Jingle into the Holidays with Smart Phone Apps
Did you forget the wine? The ugly Christmas sweater at the cleaners? The tie for Uncle Jim? With a smart phone app, you will always have your list when you need it—a great way to eliminate extra trips. Manage all your lists for groceries, holiday lists, and errands with apps like Wunderlist,Todoist, and OutofMilk. Save even more time by using apps from major retailers and specialty shops to order gifts for home delivery. Preordering for store pick up also shaves minutes off your wait.
What will you do with all that extra time during the holidays? Feel free to lean back and relax with a glass of pinot with those near and dear, enjoying the flickering Virtual Fireplace app.
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GAYLE SCROGGS, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor, ABDSG.
An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources at www.essencecoaching.com. She also speaks fluent Spanish and delights in new exotic Scrabble words as she savors life in the Chesapeake Bay area, California, and Argentina.
BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (www.MentorCoach.com), a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.
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