When should I start my dissertation?

I just wanted to give you a quick shout-out regarding this question

I've been getting a lot this week about goal-setting. How do I set goals for my dissertation? And the other, sort of, secondary variant of this question, which is, every time I set goals, it feels like things don't work out. And even the third variant of this question, which is, whenever I sit down to do the dissertation work, things just feel entirely overwhelming. It feels to me like every dissertation writer has a five-month plan. It's like, in the business world or something, I think they tell you, "Have a five-year plan." Dissertation writers have a five-month plan. They say, "You know what, by April, I'm gonna have my lit review and my methodology chapter done. I'm gonna have IRB approval, and then, I will be ready to collect my data and finish my dissertation." And, of course, as time goes on, things don't work out as expected.

So, I would like to talk about goal-setting in three ways. I wanna give you a general overview about my opinions about goals and how I orient around goals and how I would like to offer that perhaps you you could adopt this way of orienting around goals. Number two, I wanna talk about, and two and three, actually, I wanna talk about two different styles of planning that you could engage with. So, first, regarding goals, I think that goals in general are, is not a great way. Goal-setting is not a great way to go about orienting around tasks in one's life. And this is largely because the way as a culture, at least here in the United States, I can't speak for everyone here, but there's many within the United States that we approach goal-setting in such a way where if a goal doesn't work out, we just leave that goal behind and go pursue another goal. It's like, it's very similar to Near Year's resolutions, where you say around the beginning of the year, "I'm gonna get in shape, I'm gonna look really good in this summer whatever," and things don't work out. And so you abandon that goal and move on to another goal. This is different, though, than a calling. You see, goals, to me, are, you know, "I wanna go and I wanna do these tasks that I think are gonna orient me more towards this happy life that I would like to have." But a calling is something where there's great pain if you leave it behind. My calling in my life is to help other people become all that they possibly can be, to alleviate pain in other people. And so it's obvious why I work with dissertation writers.

Dissertation writers, there's a lot of pain involved in going through this process and in being ABD, All But Dissertation, for a long period of time. It's like the feeling of being stuck is one of the most painful things a human being can go through. And I want to help people like you do better. So, that's my calling in life. And if I didn't follow my calling in my life, how are things gonna feel? Guys, not living out your calling is like living hell. It's living the worst. Many of you have been through dire circumstances in your life, and often, those dire circumstances are tied to plans that have been postponed or hopes that have been lost. And so, if we orient around our dissertation process in a goal-setting mindset where, if we just miss this goal, we'll go make a new goal and pursue it later. There's not an acknowledgement of what's on the line here. If you did not finish this dissertation process, there would be a hole in your life, most likely. You would have a regret. And, I've said this before in many places, but if you go to old folks homes and you volunteer, you hear about regret. And so my goal, my hope for you, my calling, let me say it that way, my calling for you, is to not live with regret. So, orient around this dissertation process as a calling. So that's the mindset piece. Now let's talk about the practicality of it.

There's two ways that I would like you to think about goal-setting, calling-setting, (laughs) whatever we wanna call it. Short-term tasks that we orient around. Drop the five-year plan, drop the five-month plan. Instead, think about your five-day plan. Over the course of the next five days, how many sources are you gonna get into your hands? I would say the bare minimum, the par, is five sources. You're gonna get five scholarly articles, hopefully from a great database. My favorite database is ProQuest. It's like everything under the sun is there. Precise results in the search. I love ProQuest. So, five articles that you could obtain around the topics that your purpose statement deals with. And then, from those five sources, can you go and can you annotate, can you highlight them, can you draw out and discover the main points, the main ideas that are in each of those articles? And the most basic of those, I'll give you three, is look for definitions, descriptions, and examples, concrete examples of things. Definitions, descriptions, and examples. Over the next five days, can you do that? One article per day, and annotate, note-take, out of those. But more realistically, and this is the final note that I'd like to leave you on today, is, what's your five-hour plan? I mean, chances are, if you're getting this video right now or if you're watching it, if you're watching this as it releases, you're probably getting it on a Monday afternoon or so, and there's some daylight left, perhaps.

There's some waking time left. So, what are you willing to do in the next five hours to make your dream come true? Are you willing to work for 15 minutes? And that's enough. What's your five-hour plan? Every morning, when I sit down to start my business for the day, I think, "What am I gonna accomplish in the next five hours? What are the things that I'm gonna attend to in the next five hours?" And it's not overwhelming, 'cause it's just five hours. It's not five days, five months, five years. It's just right now. What do I have the energy to do right now? And if I can rise up my energy, how can I do that so I can attend to those things that are gonna bring me happiness in the best way that I can today? And a note about happiness.

For me, happiness is living out my calling, every day. And so I challenge you to think about, how does your doctoral degree relate to your calling? And go live that today, as if it was your life's calling to finish this thing. Because after this thing, there's something waiting for you. The people that you will serve after you finish this doctoral degree, they're waiting for you, and they need your gifts. So go help them, by finishing something today. Good luck. It's Monday. Rock your Monday.