Habits and Dissertations – 3 of 4

On August 15, 1989, Dr. Stephen R. Covey published his revolutionary book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The 7 Habits have helped millions of people improve their performance in a range of applications. In Part 3 of this 4-part series, I’m going to show you how Habits 3 & 4 have been instrumental in helping us cut at least one to two years off the time to graduation for our dissertation students…

Part 3 of 4:

Habit #4: Think Win-Win.
Habit #4 breaks with the old win-lose mentality by recognizing that solutions can help both parties. But, what two parties should you concern yourself with in the dissertation process, and how do they both win?

Well, first of all, you, obviously! And, you win when you graduate. So, who’s the other party? How about your committee?

Some people think of their relationship with their committee members as adversarial or us-vs-them. It’s not. Your committee members want you to graduate. In fact, for many of our students, their committee members are only compensated for their work when the student is successful. It’s true! I have personally served on dissertation committees where I was paid when the student successfully defended their proposal and again when  he or she successfully completed the final defense.

So, if my committee wants me to graduate so badly, why are they making it so hard on me? — Well, your committee wants you to graduate, but that means that you have to complete an acceptable dissertation.

Ideally, your committee is upholding standards so that you joining the doctoral fraternity doesn’t lessen their own standing. No one wants to dilute their own accomplishments!

To be more cynical about it, your committee is guarding against the university throwing your dissertation back. You see, all universities have quality-control measures to ensure that committees don’t “rubber stamp” a dissertation. And, your committee members will get into trouble if they don’t do their jobs. So, maintaining standards for your dissertation is a survival mechanism for your committee members.

Thinking win-win means realizing that you and your committee generally want the same thing: for you to graduate as soon as possible with an acceptable dissertation! Although you might have different thoughts about how you should get there, once you realize that you and your committee members really want the same thing, it’ll be much easier for you to work with them for the win-win.

Habit #3: Put First Things First.
Habit #3 warns us how easy it can be to waste time on unimportant tasks while letting truly impactful tasks go undone.

Imagine I have a bucket filled to the brim with various sized rocks, stones, and sand. I dump the contents into a large sack and ask you to fill the bucket again.

You start pulling rocks and stones and hands full of sand out of the sack and loading them into the bucket. Before you know it, the bucket is full and several large stones are still in the sack. What happened?

You simply approached the tasks in the wrong order. When you add the sand and pebbles to the bucket first, they layer the bottom and take away space for the larger rocks.

But, if you plan carefully, first placing the largest rocks, they will leave holes for the smaller rocks to sift down into. And they, in turn, will leave room for the pebbles. And, they, in turn, will leave space for the sand.

The same is true for your schedule. If you let the least important, most trivial tasks (the pebbles and sand) take priority in your day, you will find that you don’t have time for the most important and impactful tasks (the big rocks).

Be mindful about scheduling time for your dissertation. It may not be the most important thing in your life, but your commitment to earning your doctoral degree clearly makes the dissertation very important. You should schedule time to work on your project accordingly.

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

Let's Talk About Your Dissertation
Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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