Professionals trying to complete a dissertation tend to be some of the busiest people around. Handling a job, a family, exercising, managing other personal needs, and trying to find time to write can be a daunting experience. You just have to grab the time where you can find some: before the family awakens, during your lunch break, or after everyone is asleep. (I write in the doctor’s office, waiting on my food at a restaurant, and when stuck in a traffic jam. I live in downtown Atlanta, so this happens more often than I would like to discuss.) If you cannot sleep, do not toss and turn, get out of bed and write. However, if you do not have a computer close at hand, you just waste precious moments. I recommend buying a small, in expensive (Acer Aspire 11” or 13” is my favorite) computer and keeping it with you everywhere you go. Keep your thumb drive on your keyring, so you never have to worry if you saved your latest draft. In addition, date each draft, so you do not get confused about which draft has your current writings (e.g., Sue. Draft. February 26, 2019 or Sue. Draft. February 26, 2 am, 2019). You never know when you will have a few minutes to write. Email your drafts to yourself so you will never have to worry about losing your precious work. Relax: Earning a PhD takes time. The journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Your paper is going to be rejected about five times even if your grammar, punctuation, formatting, and APA are perfect. Be respectful to your chair but know that you are responsible for ensuring a perfect draft every time or you will lose his or her respect.
Waiting is frustrating, but it is part of the journey. Make use of the down time; never sit idle. Some universities have faster turnaround times in Quality Review and IRB than do other universities. Some chairs and committee members are speedier than are others. Some chairs are more demanding than are others. The dean or the formal editor can hold up the process. Writing the dissertation is not what is so time consuming; waiting on or satisfying the demands of others is what is so time consuming. If all things fall in place and no unexpected challenges occur, I would venture an approximation of one to two years to write and move a dissertation through the process. With this said, however, less time or longer time is not an uncommon time commitment. Of course, stopping or taking a break will stretch out the time. Not following directions to the point of obsession will lengthen the time. Not understanding the dissertation must be perfect and ensuring this perfection will greatly lengthen the time. Not keeping track of references will lengthen the time. Many variables exist that can lengthen the time. My advice is to keep a log of all changes asked by your chair and committee members and make 100% certain that you adhere to all their recommendations. Do not submit a hastily prepared draft. Take your time and submit perfection each time. Do not sit idle when your paper is with a committee or with your mentor. Keep moving, keep polishing, keep preparing for the next step. Do not waste a minute.
Take care of yourself or you will not be able to write. Stress is a killer for a doctoral candidate. I recommend soft music, green teas, crystals, salt lamps, chakras, incense, sage, lavender, essential oils, reflexology, Reiki, and massage to keep the body and mind calm, stress free, and relaxed so you can write. Think about how much your time is worth. Is it really productive to spend a day cleaning windows when you can hire this done for around $100? Consider hiring a house keeper for a few months. You are worth at least $100 an hour. Hire out every job where you can pay someone else to do your menial tasks if they charge less than $100 an hour. You can find reliable people for just about any task on Angie’s List. Hiring a handyman for half a day can really give you free you to write. You must prioritize every task, and you must learn to multi-task. Finally, do not hesitate to hire a proofreader, an editor, a coach, or a statistician. Expect and plan for expenses other than tuition and books. No one person can know everything there is to know about a dissertation-especially not a first-time dissertation author. Save money or set money aside for experts. Have a statistician check your chapter one before you get too deep in the process. If you are not skilled at writing and do not know APA like the back of your hand, hire an editor or a proofreader before submitting for IRB or Quality Review; of course, do the same before you submit to the dean. Purchase a year's worth of service with Grammarly.com. Run every page you write through this software even if you have an editor. Grammarly is not a substitute for an editor; it is just another way to help you finish faster. Hire a dissertation coach or seasoned PhD to read your work several times during the process. You will need to hire a transcriptionist and possibly someone to code your qualitative work unless you are a skilled typist and know the software. Hire a statistician for your quantitative work even if you are good with stats--have him or her double check your work. Do not be penny wise and pound foolish. A few expert opinions along the way will save you at least one quarter and possibly a couple of years. What does one-quarter cost? approximately $3000-$6000. Plan on spending this amount on experts.