Worrying Is a Waste of Energy

Some doctoral students have a to-do list running through their minds as soon as they wake up in the morning and they spend a lot of energy worrying that the list won’t get done.

The problem is that worrying daily about getting everything done costs precious energy that could be put to better use.

This kind of hyper-vigilant worry seems like it’s necessary to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks.

But WORRY IS NOT NECESSARY to get things done. Let me say that again, worry is not necessary to get things done.

Worry is only useful for a short amount of time if it’s used to determine when action can be taken. If an action can be taken, stop worrying and get started. If you determine there is no action to take, then quit worrying because it doesn’t help. There is nothing for you to do.

If you are spending a lot of mental capital, worrying about getting everything done, there is a better way to take care of business and experience peace of mind while you earn your doctorate.

The reason you worry that you won’t get something done is because you don’t trust yourself to figure it out and do it.

You may lack this trust in yourself for many reasons, such as a history of procrastination, a lack of follow-through, not believing yourself capable of performing, or simply thinking you aren’t really worthy of earning a doctorate. 

The reason you don’t trust yourself to get things done isn’t as important as what you can do to change.

To stop hyper-vigilant worry, you need to build integrity and self-trust through planning and executing your task. Because once you learn how to honor your commitments, you can relax when you schedule your tasks on the calendar because you’ll know they are as good as done!

The first step is to clearly define what you want to accomplish in a specific timeframe (goal), such as writing Chapter 2 of your dissertation in a month.

Next, make a list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished to reach your goal, like organizing literature, outlining topics, writing a rough draft of each section, adding structure to each paragraph to include a thesis sentence, supporting arguments, and a transition to next paragraph, section or summation, reviewing the draft for necessary scope and content revisions, and proofreading.

Once you have a list of tasks to be completed, determine all obstacles to completing those tasks.  Write down every reason you can’t complete each task. Obstacles could include finding time to write, finding additional journal articles to support the theory, thinking you are a bad writer, or a lack of understanding of how to synthesize.

Then, for every obstacle, devise a strategy to complete the tasks. Be creative and realistic. Strategies may include getting tutoring to close a skill or knowledge gap, saying no to people, delegating some tasks to others in your household, and letting go of beliefs that hold you back.

When the strategies have been identified, update your task list accordingly, to include everything you need to do. Then determine what needs to be done in a specific order and how long you will allow yourself to do each task.

It is very important to determine how long you will take to complete any given task. This is where a lot of students fail to be efficient! You are in complete control of deciding how long something will take to do.

Decide what needs to be done each week to reach your goal and at the start of the week, calendar your tasks. Don’t just make a to-do list. Block out time periods where you will complete a specific task.

Commit to completing all the scheduled tasks each week.

Right here is where the most people fail because they expect to feel motivated to work on the tasks.

But that isn’t how our brains work.

When it’s time to do a task, your brain is going to give you a million reasons why you should do something else. Don’t believe the lies it is telling you. You won’t feel better if you wait to do a task. Putting off your tasks steals your energy, motivation, and self-trust.

Instead, you need to manage your resistance in the moment. That is the key to building self-trust.

Expect that at that moment, you won’t want to do your work. That is normal. It is OK to resist in the moment. But make sure to move past the resistance quickly and do the task.

You can move past the resistance by reminding yourself why you have made this commitment, reassuring yourself that you’ll benefit from doing your work now, and rewarding yourself with guilt-free downtime.

When you repeat this approach until it becomes a habit, you create self-trust. You can stop worrying that things won’t get done because you know that all the necessary things will get done.

Letting go of worrying about a long to-do list to finish a doctoral program is just one aspect of building confidence and finding peace of mind along the doctoral journey. I teach students how to manage themselves within time so they can create a dissertation writing schedule that works for them. We also identify and release what’s holding them back so they can reach peak performance, build confidence by accessing inner wisdom, and create a sustainable journey that lessens the susceptibility to burnout.  All this is accomplished in the DO YOUR DOCTORATE Without the Drama 6-week coaching program.

You can apply for the program by emailing me or sending me a message on Facebook. Before you enroll, we’ll have a chat to make sure it’s a good fit and answer your questions.