I have been aiming in my head for graduation next June, in 2012. When I tell this to old grad students, they nod at me sagely and say, "Is that your FIRST target?"
I had my first committee meeting in February this year, and my target was to have the second one in August. I tried to work hard this summer, and not to wander, although I made some progress I didn't get as much done as I wanted (story of grad school, right?). Moral of the story is, I didn't have a committee meeting in August. I'm afraid my target graduation date may well slip to August next year, but even that is not the end of the world.
What I've heard whispered in the hallway, and what I am coming to believe is absolutely true, is this:
You graduate when you feel like you MUST get out.
If you are being cynical, this means that you graduate when you hit the desperation point - doesn't matter how much actual work you have done. Slightly more pragmatically, I take it as meaning that when you feel absolutely certain that you are "done with this", then you are ready to leave.
Well, here's the thing.
I want out.
Out, out, out. I am starting to work on projects for post-graduation, thinking about my career beyond school, and looking forward to things I won't be able to do until I'm out of school. It is so much more exciting to work on THOSE things, instead of research.
It's kind of funny, I feel like a switch has flipped. I am laser focused on graduation. Unfortunately I can't be laser focused on research, as I have other things that take up my time, but I am highly efficient and directed as I do my work - always striving toward the end goal. I am ready to be done with this - this must happen. I have been a student for a long time, and I am itching to move on. It is a new season in life - I wrote here back in February that I could start to feel the seasons changing, but I wasn't quite "SO past that" yet.
In other words, I am now SO past this.