As I’m forced to remind myself from time to time, my current focus is on finishing my doctoral dissertation. When I left LSU several years ago I was done with what seemed to be ‘the hard part’ at the time but little did I know that the real ‘hard part’ would be in getting myself to focus on it long enough to finish it. I was busy taking on new things (like another job at West Point), managing my growing company, and trying to stay active with my websites and media production (books, dvds, and articles). Long story short…my ADD got the best of me and in the 3 years since I left LSU I did little to move forward from when I left. Since I resigned at West Point though some things have changed. At least I’ve tried to make them change.
The most important thing I’ve done is take a new mindset on how to tackle seemingly monumental tasks. Normally, I’m GREAT at taking on a million things and juggling them with a high level of proficiency. On the flip side though, I SUCK at completing the jobs that I start. On top of that, I tend to take on anything that is offered or thrown at me and often find myself wasting time trying to get things PERFECT rather than just finishing it. The combination of these traits means I’m often baking a lot of really great cakes but all the while having a hard time putting the icing on the cake so to speak. This was especially true with my dissertation. Since I started rethinking my approach, things have been more productive though. Instead of looking at the remaining chapter of my dissertation that I have to write and thinking “where do I start,” or “I can just do it tomorrow,” now I approach it with the following two points in mind:
- I give myself a fairly low minimum level of expectation for daily work on a given task. For example, on my dissertation writing, I now tell myself that I have to write a paragraph a day. That’s it. Just a paragraph. Sometimes I write 2 or 3 in a day but I’ve pretty much been just writing 1. I know it doesn’t sound like much but I’m actually finding that when stringed together over time, these little bits of progress will add up to the completion of my seemingly monumental task. It’s kinda like the lifetime prisoner who chips away a fraction of his prison wall each day. Before he knows it, he’s broken free from what was holding him back.
- The second thing that I’ve done is tried to put my OCD perfectionism at bay. I fight the urge to stay on something until it’s perfect and instead just plow through whether the work is good or not. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a good idea but I’ve found that because of how I operate, it’s better for me to “Just Do It” because if it isn’t perfect the first time around I’ll fix it later. With writing, this approach makes it easier to just sit down and wright and is a nice way of busting through periods of writer’s block.
If you find yourself in a position like I’ve described and have the same disposition as I do, try out these tips and let me know if they work for you.