Using Time Wisely: Knowing When to Work and When to Wait

Academic News & Updates
Dissertation Motivation

As has been discussed in previous blogs, time management is a critical factor of dissertating. However, though many people think the best way to be productive and use time wisely is to continuously work on their dissertation, that may not always be the best course of action. Though it seems contradictory, it may end up saving you time if you know when to sit back and wait, as well as when to take action.

One frustrating part of the dissertation process is waiting for feedback. The dissertation goes through so many rounds of review and revision, many people feel that they are wasting time sitting and waiting to receive drafts back from their chair, committee, URR, and form and style reviewers. Before deciding to put your time to use working on your dissertation while awaiting feedback, it is important to consider who is currently reviewing your draft, what sections they are reviewing, and what sections you would like to work on. Never work on a section or chapter while someone at your school is reviewing it. Doing so unnecessarily increases the risk for increased revision and time spent. Further, it is often in your best interest to hold off on working on sections that require any sort of school approval before you have received it. This is especially important for data collection, as approval from your committee, school, and Institutional Review Board is required before you can begin this step.

However, some things can be great to work on while you wait. Things like literature research and annotating sources can often be done while a draft is reviewed. Even though many things may change in your dissertation as a result of reviewer feedback, the general topic will likely stay the same, and thus the literature you use will still be relevant. Preparing for your oral defense presentation is also helpful, as you can create your visual aids while you wait and start practicing your presentation while awaiting feedback.  If something changes based on the review, all you have to do is update your presentation accordingly. These are great ways to stay engaged in dissertating while waiting for reviews to finish. However, if the things you need to work on next require guidance or approval, or are currently under review, that is an appropriate time to sit back and wait.

Sometimes when dissertating, waiting really is the best call you can make. However, if there are sections you can work on while someone is reviewing parts of your dissertation, it can be beneficial to do so. The dissertation is a long process, so it may be that there are things you can work on while you wait. They key is to be thoughtful about what sections are being reviewed and what you can work on while you wait, because you never want to create more work for yourself.

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