Are you having trouble writing your dissertation, compiling your results for a scientific publication, or submitting a CV or resume for your next big adventure? What is holding you back? Often, recognizing your roadblocks can enable you to thoughtfully set aside the obstructions. I have been practicing this mindfulness recently in my home and work life. I may not always be free of obstacles, but I can quickly spot them and more effectively get back on course.
What are some distractions that hold us back? For me, fear of the unknown is a big one. So when I was fearful of writing my dissertation, I started collecting my results and aimed for 25 figures to which I later added more. I also compiled a collection of references, which I used to write my introduction. This was a good way to get started, and it helped me stay on course. When I wrote my first research publication on my graduate research, I followed a similar format, only I used fewer data for my figures. Breaking things down into parts always helps. I always kept my protocols up to date so writing the materials and methods section would be easier.
Submitting a CV or resume has its challenges. It takes time to tailor your application materials for each job search. Application materials include a CV or resume, a cover letter and, at times, publications or writing samples. Other items requested may be transcripts and references, so it is good to have all your items prepared in advance.
At first, when I was transitioning from basic research, I did not think I had to transform my CV into a resume. But then one interviewer asked me if I would be happy stepping away from the lab bench and into an office environment. That is when I realized my CV may be misrepresenting my career aspirations. I then spent time converting my CV into a resume. Another thing to consider is if your resume was written five to ten years ago, the style and format may need updating.
What are some reasons we procrastinate and waste time? For me, it was a lack of time management skills. I would wait until the last minute and complete a project under stress, which gets the job done thanks to the heart-pumping hormone, adrenaline, but it wasn’t any fun.
To face a daunting task, I now break it down and allot one to two hours at a time to not feel overwhelmed. You can give yourself something to look forward to once one part of the project is complete such as going for a walk or having coffee. Writing tasks in a calendar will help you visualize the parts that need to be completed by the deadline and will keep you on track. I find using my smartphone and Outlook calendars extremely helpful. Having the alerts chime on my phone or computer is a good way to remind myself of project milestones and deadlines.
Another time sucker is the internet. One way I stay abreast of industry news is reading several daily email subscriptions in higher education.
This takes time.
I limit my time by only reading articles that pertain to my area of interest and not reading comments, which can draw you in as you follow the conversation. If I am under pressure to meet a deadline, I delete all subscription emails and get to work.
For me, a clean inbox is a sign of staying on task. It serves as a checklist for me. If something is in my inbox, it needs my attention. I regularly apply the touch it once rule to emails. If you open it, do something about it. Reply, delete, flag, or file it away. If I am pressed for time, I will reply to emails at a later date. Do not let the internet and email get you off track. This applies to social media as well.
Another roadblock is our insecurity. We question is it good enough? Getting input on your work is valuable. Have someone review your dissertation or manuscript to gain insight on the writing and the content. Do not wait until your document is complete. Have it read at several different stages to get some feedback. You can tailor your writing based on their comments.
If you are in the job search mode, research how to write a CV or resume and use an online CV or resume builder. Find the people and tools to support your projects. Join networking groups through professional and alumni associations. Often, they have career fairs and career centers to help you in your job search. Through networking, you can meet individuals in your industry and have them review your resume. They know the terminology and the requisite skills needed for the sector in which you are pursuing a career.
The best way to overcome roadblocks is to just get started. That initial push will get you motivated to continue. Once you start something, maintain your pace and reach for milestones. Keep a calendar and try to set reminders so you can be alerted when you get off track. Do an honest self-assessment to determine your roadblocks and then consider ways you can overcome them. Be mindful. Often, finding solutions to problems is all we really need to get and stay on track.