Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prospectus/Dissertation Support Group

Or, the importance of setting goals.

In a true stroke of genius, one of my cohort-mates (are they just called cohorts?) suggested reforming our prelim-prep group (with a few additions and one out on maternity leave) in service of completing prospectuses/dissertations in proper timeframes.  This was brilliant, and I will be forever in debt to her. 

As you all know, I am not afraid of structure in my life.  I’m generally quite happy to create it myself, and will occasionally go completely overboard, resulting in days that are scheduled hourly in order to get everything done.  In spite of this, planning such a huge project as a dissertation can be really overwhelming.  Though I had already made a lovely month-by-month schedule for myself, outlining an optimistic schedule to dissertation success, and a weekly breakdown of what projects/subsections I should work on each day, I was constantly consumed by the sheer volume of stuff I needed to complete.  Enter the prospectus/dissertation support group.  In addition to discussing what’s going on with our projects, getting feedback about various aspects of the process, and generally having a nice lunch time, we set goals to be met by the next meeting (generally in two weeks).  It’s amazing how life can be so structured already and yet the critical level of structure is missing.  I now have three scales of calendar posted on in my cube, and it makes me feel so calm and in control – something I’m trying to hold on to more as everything else speeds up. 

The lesson here is nothing new: When you are overwhelmed by a big project, break it into small enough chunks that you have manageable goals, but not so small that you can’t see the big picture.  I find that that the breakthrough moments in my life are rarely truly new.  Rather, they are subtle (and sometimes less so) reiterations of things I’ve already learned and tried to apply in my life.  I suppose, then, the only real lesson is to keep trying until it works…

PS. My IRB was approved!  Now I just have to get my data contract approved and I’ll be on my way.


  1. As you know, I love the clich├ęs, and you have hit on one of my favorites: There is nothing new under the sun.
    Congrats on organization saturation!

  2. They are totally cliches for a reason!!!