Thesis Survival Essentials
I have been writing my PhD thesis for nearly 3 months now, with a further 4 months to go until submission. Many people dread the writing up process though I must admit that I’m rather enjoying it; call me strange but for me it symbolises the end of an era and moving on to new beginnings. It helps that I enjoy writing too, clearly as I spent nearly all of my spare time in this little corner of the internet 😉 However love it or loathe it, writing up your thesis can really take its toll on many aspects of your life, especially when you’re shut away in solitary confinement like me! I don’t have the answers as to what is the best way to write your thesis, after all this is my first attempt too, but I have discovered ways to keep motivation up and make each day a little easier. So here are my top tips for thesis survival and making the thesis-writing process just that little bit more enjoyable…
Writing space, keep it tidy!
Find yourself a writing space, whether that’s a designated desk or your kitchen table (mine was super cheap from Ikea!). Tidy away any clutter that’s already there before you start and at the end of every writing day tidy your laptop/papers/notebooks away out of sight so you don’t have to spend the rest of your evening looking at them. Tidiness really helps me to focus on the task at hand, I can’t concentrate when there’s clutter! I like to always have flowers on my desk and a scented candle to help me stay calm when things get stressful.
Tea, lots of it…
Maybe you’re a coffee person but for me it always has to be tea. I like to avoid the post-caffeine slump by making a huge pot of tea and keeping it close for refills. That way I stay hydrated throughout the day and it feels so much nicer drinking from a cup and saucer rather than the tea-stained mug I have on my desk at work! I love experimenting with different flavours and types of tea too, because really what else is there to get excited about during the day??
Let music inspire you…
Many people can’t work with music that has lyrics and I must say I’m the same; I end up singing along and typing what I’m singing and when I listen to my usual upbeat latin american music I end up dancing in my chair, not helpful! I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with listening to different styles of music that are more mellow and either have no lyrics or are sung in a different language, particularly jazz or jazztronica. I love old movies and have found that soundtracks to films are often good to work to as well; I bought a box set of 60’s era French new wave jazz soundtracks (pretentious I know!) which make me feel like I’m in Paris instead of sitting at my desk. My other half prefers piano melodies and soundtracks such as Game of Thrones. Thesis-writing is a good excuse to get Spotify out and explore new genres!
Keep it casual, but maybe change out of those PJs!
I know I’m all for promoting fashionable scientists and dressing up for the lab but when it comes to the thesis really you just have to stay comfy! Ditch the tight jeans that cut in and get some soft joggers! ‘Loungewear’ is huge right now so I’ve stocked my wardrobe with comfy trousers and soft jumpers to layer up when it’s cold, fluffy socks are a must and I also have a selection of scarves to huddle in, including a huge faux fur one which makes me feel like Dita Von Teese! Anything goes as long as you change out of your pajamas, at least into different pajamas 😉 I have a Pinterest board of writing style if you’re in need of inspiration…
Take your laptop for a visit to a local coffee shop
My bf and I (he’s writing up too) made a pact that once a week we’d take our laptops to a coffee shop in Manchester so we actually leave the apartment and interact with other human beings on planet Earth every once in a while! Always good to check that the apocalypse hasn’t happened whilst we’ve been shut away 😉 Make sure there’s Wifi and take headphones if you’re easily distracted, though I quite like listening to the general hubbub of noise in the coffee shops for a change.
Keep motivation handy
No matter how disciplined you are or how desperate you are to get your thesis written, your motivation will wane and some days it will just seem impossible to get going. I like to keep motivation around me to remind myself why I’m working so hard; a teeny Eiffel Tower because I’d love to visit when I finish, a book of Chanel catwalk collections to imagine being able to buy Chanel clothes, my blog planner to spur myself on to finish the days word goal so I can spend the evening blogging and planning exciting things!
Take a break!
You’re not a machine, give yourself a break! Stand up and do some stretches, go for a walk around the block, read a magazine, anything that gets you away from your desk for a while! I always take a lunch break and watch an episode of Absolutely Fabulous to just get me thinking about more trivial things for a while, then when I start up again I feel more focused.
Go easy on yourself!
I like to set myself word/figure goals every day but sometimes things just don’t go your way. On those days I find it best not to beat myself up, sometimes particular sections are tricky to word or figures take a long time to put together, it happens. Every day is a step closer to completion so focus on the positives! Get a good night’s sleep and start up again the next day, and the next day, and the next…. we’ll make it one day, right? 😉