Your computer will fail at some point while you’re writing your dissertation. Your schedule will collapse on top of you despite your best intentions. You will receive unexpected and sometimes negative feedback on your work. While you cannot control the world around you, you can control how you react to setbacks and other emergencies that will inevitably creep up and conspire to knock you out of your productive moment. The key to successfully completing any lengthy writing project is accepting the fact that setbacks and emergencies will arise no matter how much planning and preparation you do. Remember that recovering from them is far more important avoiding them all together. Frustration and irritation are natural consequences in those moments, but giving in to the feelings of helplessness won’t help you overcome the setback.

What you can do, however, is try to reset. Allow yourself to feel frustrated or sad for a few minutes, and then stand up and resolutely reset your emotional thermostat to zero. Pretend the setback didn’t happen at all if possible or simply shuck if off until you can more productively deal with it instead of devising schemes to take vengeance against your waste of a computer. You may find you need to physically remove yourself from your office or your apartment to calm down. Do that then. You may find you need to talk to someone you love or trust to get the emotions out before you can recover. Do that then. Once finished, you can return to your computer with purpose and resolve, ready to face your dissertation once again with energy and thoughtfulness. While you may struggle to achieve this complete reset, it is a skill worth cultivating because otherwise you’ll compound the consequences of the setback.

Action Steps

  1. Give yourself a few minutes to feel the emotions associated with the setback. Be angry or frustrated or sad.
  2. Stand up, take a breath, and step away from your work so you can emotionally reset.
  3. Talk to someone you trust—like a writing coach—who can help you overcome the setback.
  4. Return to your work in a calmer frame of mind, ready to resume your work.