Monday, July 30, 2012

Set a schedule

As a grad student, I tried many times to get huge amounts of writing and research done in large chunks of time during the day.  The thing is, it didn't work.  I'd stare and stare and the many research articles on my desk.  I'd stare and stare at my dissertation with only a few pages completed, ever wondering if I'm ever going to get this thing done.  I'd have thoughts saying "Maybe you are not cut out for this."  I often believed that.

However, it wasn't until I moved to Seattle and got a full time job did I actually find out how to get the ball rolling with my dissertation.  With this new full time job, I realized I had to start scheduling myself.  I had to actually make time for dissertation writing, instead of following my grad assistant schedule of fitting my writing into chunks of time whenever they were available.

You see, the key to actually completing anything large and complex as a dissertation is scheduling time to do it and sticking to this schedule.  The schedule that worked for me was writing or researching or planning 1 hour everyday (Monday through Friday) right after work in my office.  So even though I was technically "done" with work, my mind was still sharp and in "work mode," allowing me to easily keep my mind and typing hands working on my dissertation.  I gave myself the weekends off since my schedule was unpredictable and honestly I just felt like resting at that time.  I also tried not to work at home.  Home, in my opinion, is where you are suppose to rest.  As you can tell, I don't have children, so this might not be case for all of you.  Still, even if you are a parent, getting anything remotely done at home regarding your dissertation is next to near impossible, unless of course your spouse or partner stays at home all day and keeps the children occupied for an hour or so while you work.  (My advice, SPEND TIME WITH YOUR KIDS).

By sticking to this schedule, I was able to keep the ball rolling with my dissertation. In other words, I was able to maintain a flow with the writing and research process.  Even if you just write 1 word on your dissertation for the day, that's fine!  You at least contributed to your dissertation and you are keeping the flow going with your writing.   Some days I would just write one word.  Other days I would write 1-2 pages.  It really depends and some days work better than others.  So, don't feel bad even you hardly write anything.  The next day may be much much better.

Some may think also that giving yourself only 1 hour per day is too short.  I beg to differ.   Research has suggested that even when you are not working on a particular task or topic, your subconscious is actually "working" on it in the background of your mind (still need to find the reference, will insert it here when I find it).  Giving yourself that time away from your dissertation is actually beneficial.  It gives yourself time to think and then compose your thoughts at a later date.

I really do hope this helps you.  All the other advice I plan to give falls on this very simple concept of scheduling.  Some may have a different schedule in mind, and maybe that works of them.  This is what works for me.  Hopefully, you can find a nice slice of time in your day that you can regularly work on your dissertation too.

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