Have you ever heard the saying: “The only way to finish your thesis is to glue yourself to your chair and stay there until it is done” ?
This conventional wisdom had the following effects on me:
1) Chronic back, shoulder, neck, and wrist pain
2) Eye strain and tension headaches
3) Glacial (almost negligible) progress on my thesis.
The worst part was that the less progress I made, the harder I worked.
This led to even more physical pain and I eventually developed an inflammatory condition in my arms and wrists.
In retrospect, this cycle makes perfect sense.
How can you be creative if your whole body is tense, your eyes are strained from staring at the screen all day?
Ironically, my thesis started coming together when I had to limit my time at the computer because of the pain in my arms and wrists.
You cannot stay focused if you chain yourself to your desk all day.
In order to have the mental stamina to write your thesis you must take regular breaks throughout the day (at least one 10 minute break every hour).
I used to feel guilty about taking breaks until my injury forced me to take a typing break every 30 minutes.
I then realized that when you take a break, your mind is still working.
In fact, the creative part of your brain is liberated when you are not actively focusing on a task (i.e. sitting at your desk staring at your screen).
Suprisingly, my greatest insights hit me when I was walking during my breaks from typing.
Eventually, I got into the habit of taking a walk whenever I felt stuck, and the walks usually helped me to come up with an answer to help me to keep moving forward.
5. Pick your work environment carefully
The environment where you work may not be the optimal place for you to concentrate.
Many students notice dramatic changes in their performance when they change their environments.
A simple modification, such as working in a library instead of their apartment can double your focus.
But, keep in mind that an environment that works for your friends may not be the best for your thesis writing.
Some students work best in silent environments such a library, while others prefer a little bit of background noise such as in a coffeeshop.
If you have to work from home, some rooms may be more conducive to working than others.
Try out different work environments (consider asking friends or family about lending you a spare room for thesis writing), before deciding which environment (and which time of day) is best for you.
Surround yourself with positive people who can support you academically or emotionally.
The number one challenge of graduate students I work with is that they felt isolated and lose motivation to do work.
In college there were support groups in the form of study groups, office hours, and the residential community.
In graduate school many student do not have any type of support.
First-year students usually start out enthusiastically, but due to lack of accountability they lose track of time and fall behind on their milestones.
In contrast, the students who join a support groups feel that being part of a community is one of the best ways to keep themselves motivated.
Simply knowing that someone else believes in you and celebrates each milestone with you by a specified time will motivate you to complete your drafts on time.
To learn more tips to be more productive in graduate school, click here to get on the waiting list for the “Finish Your Thesis Program” and you will receive a free copy of Dora’s guide “Finish Your Thesis Faster”