Stay on Track, Write More, Find a Job, and Gamify Your Dissertation | Issue 212

FREE ABD WORKSHOP STARTS AUGUST 9THFrom Struggling to Succeeding: How to Get Back on Track with your Dissertation Goals. Register Below!



Cultivating gratitude daily could vaccinate you against impulsiveness and enhance your self-control, according to novel research by Leah Dickens, Ph.D. (Northeastern, 2015) and her former professor, David DeSteno.


Higher levels of gratitude, both lab-induced and naturally occurring, predicted study participants' greater willingness to forego $30 now for the promise of $50 at a future date. In short, feeling thankful increased the ability to delay gratification. Imagine how this kind of self-control could keep you on task on your dissertation.

"We can all point to the five things in our lives that we're most grateful for, but if we keep thinking about those, we'll habituate to them—they're going to stop being interesting," DeSteno told Thea Singer of Northeastern News. "Rather, to cultivate gratitude we should reflect on daily events: the woman who stopped to give you directions, the man who gave you his seat on the T."

Editor's tip: Increase your gratitude (and other character strengths) with this list from U Penn's Tayyab Rashid, Ph.D. More ideas: Take time to identify something every day that you've taken for granted—and imagine life without it. Write thank you notes to those who have contributed to your life or your day. Keep a gratitude journal in words or photos. Say thank you to cashiers, bus drivers, police officers, and so on.



The Wharton School's Adam Grant, Ph.D., just might be the most productive academic alive, claims Forbes' contributor Dorie Clark. Award-winning teacher, celebrity speaker, best-selling author, elite consultant, and thriving family man, Grant is unstinting in helping thousands who reach out to him. How does he do it? His three tips run counter to common wisdom:


1. Use small blocks of time to write. "I can sit down for 15 to 30 minutes and plant the seeds of an idea," he noted. Then he incubates it for a couple of weeks to get enough distance to edit it.

2. Leave it unfinished. Instead of stopping at the end of a section or page, he stops his writing mid-sentence. Brains are notorious for remembering unfinished tasks better than completed ones. "If I finish a paragraph, it takes a while to get back to where I left it three days earlier," he explained.

3. Use every minute. When he finds himself with small scraps of time, even as few as eight minutes, he leverages them. In reviewing his schedule in advance, he identifies "micro-goals," e.g., a conversation with a colleague, that he can achieve in just minutes.



Getting your Ph.D. in a STEM field? Your chances of joining the tenure-track club are slim, as low as one in six for biomedicine, warns Gina Kolata in the New York Times. And while waiting, you may end up toiling for low wages in post-doc land, where the average annual of $44,000 has not risen in nearly 20 years, considering inflation.

Don't let your passion for science blind you to responsible career planning. Start with an early heart-to-heart with your mentor, recommends Kolata. Other experts urge an even more active stance. Need motivation? Just do the math. Doctorates are being granted at rates that far exceed the quantity needed to replace retiring faculty. For example, over 400 applicants vie for each assistant professor opening at MIT's engineering school.

Editor's tip: Don't rely on a single mentor. Broaden your horizons by assembling your personal "board of directors" that includes non-academics if you want a paycheck commensurate with your training before middle age.



Who can resist the insistent rings and pings of a smart phone? Even if you do stand firm, your concentration has already been disrupted, costing you valuable time to get back into flow. But you hesitate to turn off your phone in case of emergency calls, right?

What's the solution? If you have an iPhone or an Android phone running Lollipop 5.0 or later, take advantage of the built-in "do not disturb" features. Otherwise, follow Suzanne Kantra's advice on Techlicious:


Silence Premium Do Not Disturb ($2.50 on Google Play) is the best stand-alone app for Android devices. It lets you silence your phone based on your calendar entries, selecting all or just those you select as busy. Set a mute timer if you find yourself in an impromptu meeting. And when you're in silent mode, you can have an auto-responder send text to select contacts to let callers know you're in a meeting.

Editor's note: I couldn't live without this app, which I keep on my home page. Before meetings, with two quick taps, my phone stays silent for an hour—unless it's an emergency call from my family. You can set up a regular schedule as well so you can get your beauty sleep, or choose a spontaneous 15-minute quiet time for power napping or meditation.



Ready to customize your avatar, grab your sword, and role-play your way to the dissertation finish line? Download Habitica free and start your quest. Along the way, you will define the habits you want and those you don't in order to reach your goal. Your character harvests gold and experience credits for sticking to the positive ones while losing health for giving in to the latter. Earn additional rewards for completing your daily tasks.

Essentially a good time management app crossed with a video game, Habitica can be a delightfully addicting way to hold yourself accountable. Let it spur you to honor your writing schedule and shun diversions along the way. You can even band together with other players as well as earn a pet gryphon. Who knew dissertating could be so much fun? Habitica's devotees donated generously to the Kickstarter campaign to update it from Habit RPG. It currently rates 5 stars at the iStore and 4.3 at Google Play.


~ Curated by Gayle Scroggs, Editor




From Struggling to Succeeding: How to Get Back on Track with your Dissertation Goals

Are you an All But Dissertation (ABD) student trying to keep your head above water and sometimes feel like you're drowning? In this coaching group you'll discover strategies to deal with overwhelm and stress, and connect with other doctoral students who have also trying to meet their writing goals each day. You will learn how to:

- Recognize the limiting beliefs and self-sabotage behaviors that hold you back

- Develop strategies to minimize procrastination

- Dismantle the habits that steal time away from your writing

DATES: Aug. 9, 23, 30, Sept. 6 (Tuesdays), 2016 at: 7pm EST/4pm PST for 45 minutes.

FEES: none. Totally free to ABDs.

QUESTIONS: Please contact Shannon Massie Eisner, MHR, ACC:





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 at for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resource 

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 (, 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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