Goal-mapping is like a treasure hunt, you must first start out by knowing what you are looking for. Be very specific on what you want without limiting yourself. The next step is charting out what course of action you must take to get what you want. I encourage women to map out a treasure hunt on what they want in life, and to use that chart to reach their goals. That is exactly what I did to get my Ph.D. I knew that I wanted to get my degree in psychology, and to write a book. My goal was to use my dissertation as a self-help book, and with the successful completion of my dissertation I could be awarded my degree. I enrolled in the Ph.D. It took a very long time, but I never gave up; persistence is the single most important aspect in attaining a goal. It was time for me to write my dissertation, and at this point I was scared and almost ready to give up because money was running out.

I found a way to make ends meet while I could devote my time to finishing the book. While enduring the arduous task of writing I kept my vision and knew I had to be true to my goal. While most of my friends were supportive, many people in my life were not. I was ridiculed for even attempting such a grand task. I kept working on my book, and then one day I was on my last chapter. I turned it in; successfully defending it, and received my Ph.D. For me, my treasure was my Ph.D. I kept following my directions to find my treasure and I got it! If I can do it, you can too. 1. Be specific on what you want. 2. Do what is necessary to reach your goal. 3. Be persistent, don’t ever give up. Even if things look grim, look for solutions and ways to keep your vision. 4. Don’t let others discourage you, everyone feels fear, and everyone is criticized. The only difference is that the one who finds her treasure doesn’t let the fear and criticism stop her. 5. Stay on the map for the duration. It may be tempting to abandon the goal, or to go on a different hunt, but keep your focus and stay focused on your treasure. 6. When you find your treasure, open your box and accept your treasure graciously!

A thesis is not only about the science, but also about how to present it. When I was studying for orals in my second year, I was very organized about writing my notes and archiving relevant papers, which proved super helpful when writing my thesis. It was also very helpful that in the first few years of my Ph.D. I had written dozens of grant proposals, which gave me an early opportunity to think about how to present the big picture, as well as some text that I could use as a starting point. The acknowledgments section, and the time it takes, shouldn’t be overlooked. I saw it as my best chance to sum up the nonscientific part of my Ph.D. I chose to leave it until after my defense, when I could write at a much more relaxed pace during the few weeks I had to edit my thesis. Beware of perfectionism. A doctoral thesis concludes a major part of one’s life and there is a tendency to want to make it flawless. In my case, a non-negotiable deadline provided an effective remedy.

Other projects or life events may also impose deadlines. If you’re not facing looming deadlines, self-imposed time limits for individual chapters would probably work. Regarding technical aspects, my department provides a LaTeX template, which was very helpful. It enforces structured writing and deals with all the formatting so that you can focus on content. For example, it handles numbering, so you don’t have to update figure numbers every time you insert or delete a figure. And because LaTeX is based on plain text format, I don’t have to worry about not being able to open my thesis file a decade from now. LaTeX requires a certain amount of technical expertise, but this can be overcome with a little effort and Googling. I am also a big fan of cloud services. I used an online LaTeX editor called Overleaf that allowed me to easily share drafts with my supervisor. I started with a free account, and once I reached the storage limits I paid a tiny fee for 1 month of a “Pro” account.

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