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What is a "pact" and how do I start "pacting"?
To "pact" is to declare a short-term goal publicly on the Daily board in order to gain support and create an atmosphere in which one is accountable to others for the completion of the proposed task(s). One customarily reports in at the end of the pact period (usually a day or a portion of a day) to state whether or not one has met one's pact.

If you'd like to pact, just jump on into an existing pact thread or start one of your own!

Archive Link: "What is a pact?" by Erika.

What is a "reverse pact"?
A "reverse pact" is a pact (see above) in which one states one's short-term goal publicly on PhinisheD after one has met the goal. Reverse pacts are ideal for those who are writing dissertations under conditions of constant flux and thus find it difficult to predict what they will be able to produce within a given period.

What is a "SMART goal" or a "SMART pact"?
SMART is an idea that PhinisheD has borrowed from the management world. A SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-limited. A SMART pact has all of the characteristics of a SMART goal, but is made publicly on the main board at PhinisheD. (Since management research shows that making a SMART goal public reinforces the level of commitment to meeting the goal, pacting fits in perfectly!)

For more information on SMART goal-setting, see this wonderful post in the archives by KristinP, who wrote her dissertation on the topic.

What is a "reverse calendar"?
A reverse calendar--not to be confused with a reverse pact--is a planning tool wherein one works backward from one's long-term goal, filling in the dates between the goal and the present with the tasks that one must complete to meet the goal. The beauty of the reverse calendar is that it provides a graphic illustration of just how much time one has before the target date and what one needs to do to maintain adequate progress toward the goal.

For more information, see CarolC's post in the archives.

What is the "40-minute method" or "40-minute cycle" and how do I use it?
The 40-minute method is one in which one does 40-minutes of sustained work, takes a 20-minute break, and then repeats the cycle as often as desired. This system combats burn-out and fatigue, and also does much to overcome procrastination and resistance. (e.g. "Ugh - I've got so much work to do, but I just can't face my dissertation today! Then again, doing two or three 40-minute cycles doesn't sound so daunting...") You may find people using pact notations such as "3x40", which means that they are going to spend three 40-minute cycles on a particular task.

Archive link: "The 40 minute system and research on productivity (somewhat long)" by Erika.

Archive link: "40-minute rule" by Erika (part of a general discussion of what to do during breaks on the 40-minute method).

I'm new here, but I've been hearing a lot about tomatoes. What's a tomato?
Like the 40-minute method, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management tool, and a pomodoro, or tomato, is usually a 25-minute work segment. For more info see the Pomodoro Technique: Also really useful is It's an online timer, with alarm, that also keeps records.

What is a "PhinisheD retreat" or a "virtual retreat"?
A PhinisheD retreat uses the PhinisheD Chat Room and the PhinisheD Daily Board in tandem to create a temporary sub-community in which people keep each other accountable while working toward a short-term goal. How does this work? Someone suggests a retreat on the Phorum, giving the proposed starting time, date, and duration of the retreat. Others respond to this post, committing to participate in the retreat. On the day of the retreat, those who have committed to participate meet in the Chat Room periodically throughout the day to give updates on their progress. (At the first chat of the day, each retreat participant sets his/her goals for the day; at subsequent chats, each participant gives progress updates.) PhinisheD participant kharyssa has more to say on this topic in the archives.

Anyone can call for a retreat! The beauty of the virtual retreat is that it not only creates accountability, but also creates a sense of community--participants feel less like they are laboring in isolation.

What is "freewriting"?
PhinisheD Webmaster Dr. Tom explains freewriting: "Writing down thoughts and ideas in a stream of consciousness--without regard to grammar or spelling--is called freewriting. Just write, and don't stop for anything until you've reached your goal, which can be a certain number of pages or a certain length of time. If you can't think of what to write, just write 'I can't think of what to write' over and over if you have to. Don't stop to go back to correct anything, and if you can't think of the right word to use, just write down the first two or three words that come to mind. Do this every day, say five pages or so, and use it as an exercise to sharpen your thoughts and organize your argument. After a couple of days you'll be surprised at how much you are really able to write if you don't second guess every word choice or grammatical device. After a week or two you may have a ton of awful text, but if you go back through what you've written you'll find some real gems that can be polished and rearranged to form a nice piece of writing. Edit the text in stages, and don't worry about grammar or word choice until the third or fourth pass. For more info, check out "Writing your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day" by Joan Bolker. Many people on this board have benefited from reading that book and following its advice. Good luck!"

Archive link: "Freewriting" by Tom. Tom's classic post on freewriting.

What is "looping," and how do I use it in tandem with freewriting?
Proud PhinisheD graduate Dr. Barb defines "looping" and explains how to combine its use with freewriting: "Looping is when you freewrite (focused or not) and then go back and circle or otherwise mark the good bits--little 'gold nuggests' (words, phrases, images, ideas) that stand out for some reason. Then you write one of the gold nuggets at the top of a page and use it as the focus of your next free write. You can repeat this process several times to 'mine' your brain."

This combined technique has been the saving grace of many at PhinisheD - including Barb, who used the technique to complete an excellent dissertation!

"Focused freewriting"? What's that?
Dr. Barb sheds light on the difference between freewriting and focused freewriting: "Focused freewriting means starting with a topic as opposed to just writing about anything that crosses one's mind. The focus could be quite large, though, for instance, 'What I know about _______' (or, as Natalie Goldberg suggests as a topic, 'What I don't know about _________.')

What is a "thesis binder" and how do I make one?
A thesis binder is a funky, disjointed, and infinitely helpful 'work in progress' version of one's thesis. It consists of bits and pieces of research and drafts, all kept in a three-ring binder. To create a thesis binder, one simply places blank sheets of paper into one's three-ring binder and replaces them with research materials, results of freewriting and/or looping sessions, and chapter drafts as one completes them.

The beauty of the thesis binder is that it organizes one's work while at the same time lifting one's spirits. It gives one a graphic idea of what the thesis will 'look like' when it is finished, reinforces one's momentum, and allows one to see one's progress from thought to thought and draft to draft.

More information is available a post and another post from the archives in which kharyssa, who introduced PhinisheD to the idea of the thesis binder, explains the creation, purpose, and use of the thesis binder - including a nifty idea about how a thesis binder might help out at a dissertation defense.

What is a "teaching portfolio" and how do I make one?
Many at PhinisheD find themselves pounding the pavement for academic jobs at the same time that they are preoccupied with completing their dissertations!

The teaching portfolio, introduced to Phinishers by Dr. CarolC when she was writing her own dissertation, makes this juggling process somewhat easier by offering one a relatively simple way to organize a teaching record for hiring committees. The teaching portfolio consists of a collection of syllabi from the courses one has taught and/or developed, letters of recommendation from those for whom one has taught, outlines of courses that one feels qualified to teach in the future, etc. If you'd like more information, there are a number of informative links in the "Application Packets" subcategory of the PhinisheD Links Directory that describe teaching portfolios and how to assemble them.

What is a "mind map"?
According to Tony Buzan, the create of the mind mapping technique:
A Mind Map is a powerful graphic technique which provides a universal key to unlock the potential of the brain. It harnesses the full range of cortical skills--word, image, number, logic, rhythm, colour and spatial awareness--in a single, uniquely powerful manner. In so doing, it gives you the freedom to roam the infinite expanses of your brain. The Mind Map can be applied to every aspect of life where improved learning and clearer thinking will enhance human performance.
Several PhinisheD members have found mind mapping to be a useful technique for exploring a new topic, organizing thoughts, and preparing to write.

What is a "dissertation log"?
A "dissertation log" keeps track of the total hours spent working, and what activities you are spending time on. It not only is a great motivational technique to see the hours that you're logging add up, but also acts as proof of your work history. For more information, see K2's link in the archives.

What is "wordcounting"?
"Wordcounting" is a motivational technique where you log the time and your current wordcount. Over the course of hours, days, and weeks, you can see the baby steps add up. Alex explains more in the archives.

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