I should be writing..

Posted by Alice Baranyovits @ABaranyovits

This post is slightly different from my usual efforts, mostly because I’m in the last (although it seems never ending) stages of writing up my thesis and it’s all my brain can think about at the moment.  As I haven’t successfully handed in my thesis yet I’m not sure if I am qualified to give advice but here goes anyway.

  1. Start writing early – this is the one that everyone tells you to do and they’re right. I remember very clearly at the start of my PhD thinking that I was definitely going to do this and I would be done with the writing at least a few months before my final deadline, giving me plenty of time for the final  edits and formatting etc. This has not happened. Whilst I had done my literature review and first chapter fairly early on, I wish I had done more.  So keep writing throughout, your future self will thank you.
  2. Find a method that works well for you – I use the Pomodoro technique; you can find out more about it here. I’ve also found that for me, when I’m just writing I work best at home (its quiet, I can sit out on the deck and there are plenty of snacks close at hand – see point 7). But I know many people that prefer writing at cafes or in the office – just find what works for you.
  3. Make sure you take proper breaks, even if it’s just for a few hours outside for a walk (getting out into nature also has many mental-health benefits), but preferably for at least a whole day now and again. I wish I had done more of this over the last few months because the occasions when I have had some time away from the thesis I am always much more productive when I get back to it. Just try and ignore the ‘I should be writing’ thoughts.

    P1040655

    Going for a walk outside can help reduce your writing induced stress

  4. Accept that some days aren’t going to be as productive as others & everything takes longer than you expect.
  5. Don’t worry to much about getting everything word prefect in you’re first draft.
  6. Take it one task at a time – there have been a few times in the last couple of weeks where I have been pretty overwhelmed with everything I have left to do (obviously if you have followed point number one you won’t have this problem). This is where I have found taking a break (go outside for that walk) and just planning what I need to get done that day or over the next couple of days and focussing on that, to be really helpful. Having smaller deadlines can help too.
  7. Snacks – never underestimate the importance of good snacks. Or tea.
  8. Stop procrastating & get back to work!

There is plenty of useful information out there from people who have actually successfully finished their thesis’, there are a few links below & feel free to leave some tips in the comments.

https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/aug/27/finishing-phd-thesis-top-tips-experts-advice

https://thesiswhisperer.com/category/on-writing/

http://www.nextscientist.com/habits-reclaim-life-writing-dissertation/

http://www.nextscientist.com/writers-block-phd-students/

Anyhoo, I better get back to it – wish me luck.

Alice BABaranyovits is a PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is researching kererū (NZ pigeon; Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) in urban areas. She is supervised by Jacqueline Beggs, Mick Clout, Todd Dennis & George Perry.

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