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Explore New Dissertation Hacks, Jobs Beyond Academia, and Grad Student Tax Hikes | Issue 233

In less than 7 minutes, discover tips and info to speed you to graduation and a great job. Find out--

…how a daily gratitude practice will get your dissertation out the door faster.
…how some ABDs and postdocs are snagging good non-academic jobs—and how you can too.
…why grad students are freaking out about proposed tax legislation—and what to do about it.
…what to do if your dissertation has grown cold and you want to re-start.
…fun, effective ways to let your inner kindergartner manage your time and attitude.

Gratitude Hacks: 5 Ways Gratitude Revs Up Your Dissertating

Don't stop giving thanks when turkey leftovers vanish. Here's why:

Research shows that one of the surest ways to get you into dissertation flow is starting every morning with gratitude, as Scott Tousley of HubSpot observes:

• Yale studies say a gratitude journal will result in higher alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy.

• Stanford offers a high-demand class leveraging gratitude journals, which made students 27% less stressed.

• Harvard studies indicate gratitude improves health and strengthens relationships.

UC-Berkeley research ndicates a gratitude journal improves sleep and decreases illness.

• Columbia research says gratitude improves the immune system, while reducing anxiety and/or depression

Tip: Keep a little notebook and pen by your bed and contemplate three things that are going right in your life. For the digitally minded, download the acclaimed Five Minute Journal app to jumpstart every morning with gratitude, affirmation, and intention.

Why it works: Cultivating gratitude increases your happiness, which then energizes you, opens your mind, and builds your resources. It's the closest thing we have to a silver bullet. Keep in mind that gratitude is not just for breakfast anymore—it works any time of day to lift you out of a funk.

Getting Hired: How Berkeley ABDs & PostDocs Snag Non-Academic Jobs

Unless you've been asleep for the last couple of years, you know that today's doctoral students must broaden their career horizons to include non-academic paths. To meet this new reality, a group of UC Berkeley graduate students and postdocs have organized as "Beyond Academia," or BA for short.

BA strives to educate PhDs in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM fields about careers outside the ivory tower through small professional developmental events and more. This year the Beyond Academia two-day conference featured over 100 PhDs who transitioned successfully and attracted 400 attendees.

"Beyond Academia alumni have successfully transitioned to careers in industry, consulting, writing and media, policy, entrepreneurship, and many other fields," notes their latest newsletter.

What you can do: Develop your own local team of doctoral students and post-docs to create a "Beyond Academia" movement on your campus. Contact UC Berkeley's Beyond Academia group for more information.


Grad Students Freak Out at House GOP Tax Plan

Do you receive a tuition waiver? If so, be aware that the Republican tax legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives could raise your taxes by 300 to 400%, according to several sources, including NPR.

"Graduate students are freaking out about the GOP tax plan—they should be," writes Wired, given the provision buried in the bill makes graduate students' tuition waivers taxable income.

Even with untaxed tuition waivers, most doctoral candidates live frugal lives, and many support families. A hit like this could force many to drop out and stifle diversity efforts, especially in STEM fields. Universities will feel the impact on several levels, from staffing to research. (The Senate version lacks this provision, so there's a chance it could be dropped in the final version.)

"The American Council on Education sent a letter to Congress decrying the plan," notes NPR. The letter was signed by over 30 academic organizations, including the Association of American Universities, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the American Psychological Association.

What You Can Do: Share your opinion with your elected Federal legislators using contact details at


Dissertation Grown Cold? Here's What to Do Now

Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

~ Allen Saunders

Doctoral years are also prime time for significant life events—job hunting, starting new job, getting married, getting divorced, having or adopting a baby, moving, etc. Any of these may lead you to hit the dissertation pause button. That's okay. Picking it up again later can be tough, which is when you need this advice from someone who's been there.

As Heather VanMouwerik tells it in her Grad Hacker blog post, her Russian history dissertation went off the rails during a cross-country move. Despite careful planning, the move morphed into a "5,000-miles-in-4-days saga of broken dishes, exploding tires, dishonest mechanics, twitching eyelid, and exhaustion," she writes. Worse, her grandfather died at the same time.




"Hard" vs. "Hard to Do"


I found writing my thesis to be similar to writing my books. It's an exercise in grit: You have to apply hard focus, almost every day, over a long period time.

To me, this is the definition of what I call hard work. The important point, however, is that the regular blocks of hard focus that comprise hard work do not have to be excessively long. That is, there's nothing painful or unsustainable about hard work. With only a few exceptions, for example, I was easily able to maintainmy fixed 9 to 5:30 schedule while writing my thesis.

After two months of Netflix binging, Heather emerged from her slump only to panic whenever she merely thought about her dissertation. She struggled to remember where her research was—and what it was about. She questioned if she could or should continue.

At last a sliver of inspiration allowed Heather to get her dissertation mojo back and share her hard-earned wisdom with others. Start with forgiveness, she advises, then get your dissertation ducks in order. In short order, you'll get re-inspired too.

[Editor's note: Dissertation coaches can also be very useful in helping you get that spark back and words on the page.]


Productivity Secrets from Your Inner Kindergartner

For those who did NOT learn everything you needed to know about time management in kindergarten, read this. Quartz's Indrani Sen offers spoofy suggestions from the playground set based on actual evidence. How many can you adapt to manage your time and attitude? Check out the best below, and find the rest here:

1. Conserve time and energy by wearing your own personal uniform daily. Add a funky accessory (e.g., dinosaur mask or glittery tutu) to show your wacky side.

2. Become a thought leader by uttering authoritative phrases, e.g., "actually," "technically," "as I was saying," etc.

3. "Keep your cubby inbox at zero." Don't let stuff accumulate.

4. "Embrace failure—or else rename it." If your Lego pirate ship collapses, call it a cannon.

5. "Wasting time is for preschoolers." Apply the Pomodoro technique, network at meals, stay focused, and above all, learn the power of saying "no."


~ Compiled by Gayle Scroggs, PhD, ABDSG Editor


PHOTO CREDITS: (1) This Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND; (2) This Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND; (3) This Photo licensed under CC BY-SA


If you are considering whether to get your own coach to help you reach your academic goals, fill out this brief application for a free consultation with a dissertation coach.

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 resources

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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