For me, one of the most anxiety-producing parts of dissertation writing was waking up in the morning with the entire day ahead of me and the nagging thought of “today I must write!” worming its way through my mind. Finding ways to divide up my day and my writing time by setting small but attainable goals – and rewarding myself for meeting them! – proved to be the best way to make me feel motivated and was one of my biggest sources of dissertation help.
Here are a few ideas and strategies that can help dissertation writers get through a day of writing!
Set Time Limits
Some people find it effective to work in short, concentrated blocks of time, broken up with short breaks. It can be easier to concentrate on a task like dissertation writing or dissertation formatting for a short amount of time than for hours, so by allowing yourself short bursts of dedicated work time, you might be able to get more done than if you simply allocate yourself uninterrupted hours.
The Pomodoro Technique is one way that dissertation writers can set time limits. Using the Pomodoro Technique, you work for 25-minute periods (or “Pomodoros”) with 5-minute breaks in between. After 4 “Pomodoros,” you take a longer 20-30 minute break, allowing you to reward and refresh yourself, and return to your dissertation with your concentration renewed. During your 25-minute work periods, if any distracting thoughts cross your mind, you simply jot them down on a piece of paper and leave them to deal with later.
Set Word-Count Goals
If setting time limits doesn’t work for you, consider setting word-count goals. This was one of my favorite ways to motivate myself when I was writing my dissertation. I would wake up in the morning and say “today I will write 500 words,” and once I’d written those 500 words, that was it. I was done! This meant that if I could write those 500 words super quickly, in, say, a couple of hours, I would have the rest of the day to not think about writing. I find this strategy is most useful at the drafting stage, when I’m trying to get a rough draft down on the page and want to generate as many ideas as possible. The dissertation work I did using this technique typically needed editing and polishing after the fact, but it was an excellent way to get started.
A tool you can use to set word-count goals is 750 Words. 750 Words is an online writing platform where, if you log in and write something every day, you earn points. The points are simply a motivational tool, but it’s surprising how motivational they can be! You can also see how many points the 750 Words community has earned over the course of the day, which makes it feel like you’ve got a cheering squad behind you. Anything to make dissertation writing seem less isolating!
Change It Up
In an essay for Inside Higher Ed, Erin Bedford writes about different ways to get past writing blocks. One of the tips that she suggests is to change your location. I agree wholeheartedly with this tip. The same desk, day after day, can get oppressive! My dissertation writing often improved even if I made a small location change – from my desk to the dining room table; or from my house to the coffee shop down the street. Scheduling writing time in different places can break up the feelings of monotony that many dissertation writers experience, and inject you with new energy to help you approach writing, editing, and formatting your dissertation.
Make Appointments With a Dissertation Editor, a Dissertation advisor, or Your Colleagues
Whether you have an appointment with a dissertation editor, a dissertation consultant, some colleagues, a writing group, or even with your mom, having scheduled check-in times to work toward can make you more productive during the day. Knowing that someone is expecting an update – or a draft – from you at a designated time is a great source of dissertation help because it can motivate you to get your work done.
Dissertation Editor’s dissertation consultants have all been through the process of writing, editing, and formatting a dissertation, and they know how challenging it can be. They can provide you with expert advice on how to stay motivated.