Tag Archives: progress

Invisible Progress

One thing I’ve learned about dissertation work in the past few weeks: progress is invisible. At least at this stage it is.

I have been stuck on some analyses of my network data, which means my qualitative data has taken a back seat as I try to specify this influence model, which is resulting in much (metaphorical) banging of my head against a wall.

But I don’t want to talk about that right now because it makes my head hurt. That, and all the (again, metaphorical) banging.

It’s hard on some days to feel like I’ve accomplished much of anything. Sure, I sat here with my computer open all day. Sure, I generated about ten thousand files of output (no joke). Sure, I stared at some numbers and wrote some notes and tried some things again and stared at some numbers and wrote some notes and… you get the idea. But then my partner comes home from his day at work at 6 or 7 (or 8, or 9), the dog greets him enthusiastically (helicopter tail time is one of the best parts of my day, too, Gertrude), I stop working to fix dinner and talk to him, and I wonder… what. in the world. did I accomplish today?!

Truth is, usually I accomplished a lot. I did some important and necessary thinking. I did some problem-solving (even if I don’t feel any closer to a solution). I cleaned up data sets for future analysis. I ruled out a few more possible explanations. You know, all that. I did all that.

But, and excuse my language here folks, all that shit’s invisible.

I could make a to-do list and check stuff off to make myself feel better, but that wouldn’t help me for two reasons:

  1. I suck at updating to-do lists
  2. Tasks I think will be short are taking me forever, so it would just make me feel worse.

So I’m writing this post to remind myself that I am, indeed, making progress. It’s just invisible progress.

I’m making a little bit of visible progress (and I’ve been trying to focus on that, too). For example, I got a paper accepted into the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. And I was recently chosen as a permanent author for GradHacker, an awesome grad student blog that recently scored a partnership with Inside Higher Ed. The visible progress just doesn’t seem to matter as much as this dissertation thing I need to write. Which continues to elude me. You know. Because it’s invisible.