I realized I could send out questionnaires and arrange a well thought out exploration of successful and non-successful doctoral students. Then I could apply complex statistical analysis based on hypothesis testing. Then I thought about the new requirements at work (big changes) and the fact I was contacted to teach another graduate course next term. The new septic system is being put in next week, my aged satellite TV system is down and the grandkids rooms need to be repainted. OK so much for a heavy duty research study.
So let’s dig through the interview notes from those who made it and did not make it. What do they say? As usual it is a lot of clear and simple ideas. The one that came up the most was the 72 hour test. It is simple and to the point. Ask yourself if you have completed any work in the last 72 hours on your dissertation. The work cannot be mental for there lies delusion and self-deceit. Work is defined as writing something down and having a permanent product. Even if you throw it away the next day at least you took time and did some actual work. Thinking about the dissertation does not count since 95% of that thinking is worry or escape behavior.
Some folks had spouses who would ask to see the work from the last 72 hours if they noted their spouse or significant other not making progress. Telling your spouse that you have been hard at work and playing Xbox for 16 hours is kind of a dead giveaway. So the other person who usually hates the doctoral work and wishes it would all go away will sometimes help, because they hate the degree program! They want it to end and your screwing around prolongs the ordeal. Accept this help and go with it. Many folks do not have that type of motivational help and they flounder.
I asked successful docs why they set 72 hours and the response made sense. Successful docs take time off that is scheduled ahead of time. They will take a whole weekend off and not think about, look at or go anywhere near the dissertation. Seventy two hours allows a 48 hour weekend. They also did not count the long weekends or vacation and holiday times. These times they were totally off the schedule for doing any doctoral work. But during the day to day weeks they were careful to never go longer than 72 hours without written work. Many times I heard folks say that they threw away lots of work done on days they did not want to work but had to due to the 72 hour rule. But they moved the ball down the field these times and strengthened their self-control.
No one is there to hold your hand and you can do whatever you want. After a while the glow of completing your dissertation leaves and it takes discipline and determination. You can help yourself at that point if you have established rules and have followed them. Most failed doc students never realized when the dream died, it just was gone. No single decision led to the death of the dream. That is where discipline and technique come in and you can learn successful ideas from sites like this and from talking to successful and unsuccessful doc students.
I want each of you to succeed. Come back to the site and read and then reread the posted materials. Get the ideas deep down inside of your brain. When you hit a wall I want my words to pop up from your subconscious and help you to overcome! Get a copy of the book and read through and highlight the techniques that are pertinent to whatever you are struggling with at the time. If you implement the techniques and don’t give up, you will succeed.
OK so track what you have done right now. It is easy and no charts are needed. Today is Wednesday so what have you done on your dissertation (actually done) since 72 hours ago? That is the test! You can retake it every day. Every day you can figure out if you are going to succeed and finish your dissertation. Too many no responses and you are going down the drain. Don’t be that person! A whole world of wonder awaits you with problems to solve, money to make and respect as a new doc!
Mind your goals!
Dr. Randy Parker
National Doctoral Students Association