I should have been working on my dissertation, but there were so many other things to do!  The laundry basket was overflowing, the food in the refrigerator was all past its “use by” date, and the lawn leaves needed to be raked.  OK – I’m making all that up.  Yes, there was stuff to do, but it really could wait.  But even so, I couldn’t seem to get started again.  I could find a million excuses for not writing today, because I was tired of the whole project.  At one time, I absolutely loved my topic, and now I couldn’t stand it.  My chair told me that it was normal to go through dry spells like this one, but understanding my lack of motivation and getting done are two quite different things.

Here are some of the things that are going through my head while I contemplate whether or not to sit at the computer for another day of staring at the screen and not getting much done:

  1. My chair isn’t giving me helpful feedback.
  2. My chair isn’t giving me any feedback.
  3. My chair is giving me too much feedback.
  4. I hate seeing all of the markups when my chair returns my work.
  5. I’d rather be on the beach.  I’d rather be skiing.  I’d rather be cleaning the toilet.
  6. Can I do this?
  7. Am I good enough?
  8. Will I ever be able to get done?

Sound familiar?  Here’s a link to a short article by Dr. Travis Bradberry called “How to Make Yourself Work When You’re Not in the Mood.”

Take a few minutes to read it now!


James Ashton's picture James Ashton | April 16, 2018 11:33 am MST

HI Donna,


I know that each of us has gone through the same or similiar things that you wrote about!  Great article!  Those who push through complete their dissertation and go on to bigger and better things!




Donna Smith's picture Donna Smith | May 8, 2018 1:50 pm MST

Hi Dr. Ashton,

Thanks for sharing your insights!  Many times the difference between PhD and ABD is a matter of persistence.



Rehema Underwood's picture Rehema Underwood | May 8, 2018 10:51 am MST

Greetings Dr. Smith!

Great topic!  I thought you raised some excellent points!  Speaking from personal experience, I can attest to the "coming up with excuses" examples while working on my dissertation! It feels so surreal!  As a Chair and committee member, I empathize with my students, and their day-to-day challenges they encounter as doctoral candidates. Your topic does help shed light on how we can better support our students as they  continue their doctoral journey.


Thank you for sharing!



Donna Smith's picture Donna Smith | May 8, 2018 1:48 pm MST

Hi Dr. Underwood,

One of the insights that I usually share with students is that it's the first time they're writing a dissertation, so they shouldn't expect to be experts in the process!  This observation was particularly relevant to one of my students who was a nurse.  I asked her to compare her confidence level in administering an injection to a patient the first time she attempted it to her current proficiency, and her "ah-ha" realization was clear.



Kimberly Underwood's picture Kimberly Underwood | May 16, 2018 3:01 pm MST

Thanks for this article and the excellent resource, Donna!

Hilary Johnson-Lutz's picture Hilary Johnson-Lutz | July 26, 2018 6:30 am MST

Great post and very helpful!  Been there done that for sure:). Except for the skiing part...I would never rather be skiing.  However, I can certainly relate to the rest of it.  My current blog is related to this content so check it out:) 

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