Defeating self sabotage


I have been sitting in my desk for almost 6 hours. Of that six hours, I can tell you, I was very diligent in.. checking this.. that.. Browsing here.. there.. Doing A, B, C to X, Y, Z.. Working on my research? I did that! For roughly 45 minutes..

And I have one journal paper to write, one to revise, a seminar on Monday, and five-chapters-100-pages of dissertation with only 8 pages written, on my to-do-list.

So, why is it so hard to work?

“Defeating self-sabotage: getting your PhD finished” by Kearns & Gardiner is a must read for you, who happens to be like me: motivated in everything but PhD-related works. Or in their word: ABD syndrome -Anything But Dissertation- ..O’ow…

So, self-sabotaging is the process of creating obstacles to your goals (real or imagined), so that if failure occurs you have a plausible excuse. How to know if you’re one of us, the ABD syndrome-rs? Well, welcome to the club, if you ever have one of these behaviours:

  1. Overcommitting (to something but your study)
  2. Procrastinating
  3. Perfectionism
  4. Busy, for small things in your research that you never have enough time for the big ones
  5. Disorganized, as in no system to manage your life and time
  6. Do not put in effort, to practice for presentation or the likes
  7. Choose performance debilitating circumstances: working in not-so-comfortable place, writing while babysitting (or in my case, cat-sitting)
  8. Others, with what seemed to be an ultimate reason.. at that time..

So, have you? In my case, I beat some of them, but excel in others. D**m!

The book only give three simple rules in defeating your self-sabotage: be AWARE, take ACTION, and CHALLENGE your thinking. There are several tips for the most obvious behaviours. Some that I find, er.. doable:

On overcommitting

  • Free yourself from some commitments. Not so easy, but once you open the door to saying ‘no’, it’s a lot easier
  • If you don’t like to say ‘no’, then DON’T say ‘yes’. Say ‘I’ll have to check my schedule, so I’ll get back to you’.  Exactly my point!
  • Ask a consenting adult before taking on anything new. Not so useful for me, as I find I’m quite stubborn to defy my dear G.

On procrastination

  • Make a plan, write down when you’ll start, set some deadlines, blahblahblah. I am a trained planner (yeah, with a cum-laude degree in urban planning, you bet I am!). I’m just not a doer. Or maybe I should get a coach, you know, like one of those personal trainers celebrities have when they want to overly exercise to lose weight?
  • Nail your feet to the floor and don’t get up until you’ve done your work for some time. Now, this could actually work.
  • Build in small rewards to treat yourself after that nailing down. Doesn’t work at all for me, but may be for some others.

On perfectionism: Why would anyone be a perfectionist in their PhD? My tips: unless you’re a prodigy, give it up.

The ultimate tips are:

  • Set a specific goal
  • Earmark times to do it
  • Look back and see the reason why you stopped
  • Do it! Do it! Do it! PhD is 90% persistence and 10% intelligence.

I know, there’s no point in buying the book. It says exactly what you, me, all of us have known all along. But it’s nice to have a written reminder –not written by me– that I’ve wasted too much time doing the unnecessary.

Well, now, let me get back to my work, where was I again? Ahh.. Introduction……

PS: I’ve been off from blogging for almost two months now. But exercising the ‘do it! do it! do it!’ part, I’ll start again. It’s also good for building writing habit before going to the big one: dissertation. Yeah, let’s do this with Zumba power!!! Oh, you don’t know Zumba? Check it out! It’s a greaaaatt stress reliever!


2 responses »

  1. Qnoiii..setuju sama tulisannya. Walaupun gak menjalani phd, tapi ikutan kesentil juga, hehehe…sukses dengan studinya ya neng

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