======= Date Modified 27 Jun 2011 19:57:18 =======
Hi everyone. I'm looking for some advice as to how to get over an ill timed writing up slump. I need to submit by October and have about half of my thesis drafted. I've found it really tough to produce even 500 words a day for the past two months now though and can't seem to remedy this.
As I'm writing up I either locate new material to include, get lost in relevant online journals, google scholar and google books etc. or go between unfinished chapters rephrasing and editing. I'm also easily distracted by work for a teaching post that I have and am constantly tired.
I guess what I wanted to know was how to get over the slump and if timetabling is the only way forward? Is it possible to write half a thesis in 4 months time? Any thoughts, personal accounts or advice would be appreciated! Thanks :-)
Hey there! Sounds like a common experience...I am in my last few weeks of writing up and it's hard to stay on-task. I was also due to submit end of Sept/beginning of Oct but my deadline has been brought forwards (with my agreement) and I now have to submit in 5 weeks. Even with just 5 weeks to go I find I need to vary my work because I am not able to focus on one piece of writing for ages.
Personally, I think it's important to get a rough draft done for all of your chapters before worrying about perfecting every last detail of the chapters you have already written. So I would leave those and move on. It will also help to have some distance between you and the chapters you have written- when you come back to them later you will be more likely to spot mistakes and notice what needs elaboration etc. When you get so immersed in one chapter it's easy to stop seeing mistakes etc and you end up just reading what you expect to read.
It sounds like one of your main distractions is looking at new material. Would it be possible to conduct a systematic literature search (through a search engine or whatever) so you have a list of all relevant materials and won't need to keep looking for more? Depending on your topic you could do one giant search or do a separate search for each chapter. Then obtain as much of the literature as you can and work through it slowly, maybe just one paper per day. That way you won't be worrying that there is literature you've missed etc.
The other thing I would recommend is working with your body's natural state. Since my deadline has been changed I have stopped dragging myself up at the crack of dawn and sitting at my desk for hours when I'm basically falling asleep and getting nothing done. Instead I've changed my routine around so that I now get up later, do my exercise in the morning, and leave my afternoons and evenings free to work. This is when I'm most alert, especially because I have done my exercise and I'm wide awake, instead of leaving it until the end of the day. At first I felt guilty about not being up really early but after a couple of weeks I can see that I'm doing the right thing because I'm able to work a lot more efficiently later in the day and am getting stuff done.
I think it is possible to write half a thesis in the time you've got left, if you manage to focus. There's no point in forcing yourself to work if you're too tired to concentrate so take breaks and prioritise. I think a timetable is a good idea- I'm a bit beyond that now and am just desperately and rather haphazardly trying to tick things off the list in any old order, but I think it will help you get an idea of how fast you need to work. And it might even be reassuring as well to see that you can get things finished on time. Good luck with it all! Best, KB
I totally agree with Keenbean, as getting enough sleep and exercise in the morning seems to make me more efficient. I also work with mytomatoes, suggested by wonderful people in the forum. I found out that timing the actual work time helped me improve a lot. I have stopped procrastinating, checking e mails etc. I set clear targets, in half an hour I need to finish a specific task etc.
I also start from the most time-consuming, boring tasks, things I need to finish and cannot get away with, like tables and graphs, then I move to an overall structure, and start from the easiest and most essential.
I guess after you have a basic structure you can go back and redraft, add or remove. I allow time between each redrafting to detach myself from my writing. I rarely write more than 500 words per day, sometimes I do, but then I know that after editing I will get rid of at least half of them.
Just keep swimming
Some very good advice already, such as to leave the chapters you've done alone, and stop fiddling with them. I would also recommend going cold turkey on Google scholar and reading online journals. At this stage you need to focus on writing up what you have done, not summarising other people's work.
I personally didn't find timetabling helped at all. I could never stick to a timetable and found it totally demoralising. Instead I would break down what needed to be done, focusing on a chapter or two at a time, and draw up a list of sub-tasks. Really small things that I could concentrate on and wouldn't intimidate me. Then I would start tackling the most appealing (or least unappealing?!), do that, cross it off my list, and move on to the next. That way I found I was making progress and my confidence grew.
It maybe helped as well that I was working in very restricted circumstances. I had to work in 1 hour chunks, spread throughout the week, having no more than 5 hours total a week to work in. But I got through, I wrote up my thesis and passed my viva with trivial typo corrections. So it can be done.
But stop surfing the scholarly journal sites. They are not remotely helpful at this stage!
My heart leapt at your post because I am in pretty much exactly the same situation.
I have a very understanding academic friend who has made an arrangement with me whereby I am sending him what I write every few days. He's not reading it but if there's no email with a word attachment after a few days I get an email reminding me to keep writing. That has helped me to stop fiddling with one piece for ages or doing too much new reading, both of which were becoming a major problem.
Would you like to do some sort of check in thing where we could let each other know when we tick things off or get through a certain number of words? It might work in a similar way for you.
Also, as KB says, follow your rhythm. I find I can only produce good enough writing for a few hours each day (though I may need to sit at the computer just staring into space for quite a while first!). Then when my spurt's over, it's over and there's no point pushing into the night to get more out because it won't work. I'm sure I'll be doing that with revisions at the end but at the moment it's all about a steady pace.
I'll be thinking of you! You're not alone!
Hi Florence, I've been looking for an 'accountablity partner', where we send each other a morning target, then check in at the end of the day to see if we've hit it. It looks like you already have a good set up with you academic friend but if you or anyone else thinks this might be helpful to them as well, please let me know! My only issue is that have a job 3 days a week so Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends would be my best 'accountability check in' days.
Hope everyone's finding today ok :-)
I am having the same problem. I get very distracted by tiny things and I stop writing. I also plan to submit end of September but my days are not being productive enough. I get lost in my thesis...so many chapters and so many things to do in it. I am doing corrections in my last two chapters at the moment. Still need one final chapter with conclusions.
@Determined_daisy: I would be glad to be your accountability partner and believe the same from you will keep me moving ! I do not work but have a child which makes me as busy as you with the work !
Hi Swetchha, it sounds like you're well on your way! I have corrections to do on all 4 chapters and he intro/conclusion to write - am about 1/3 through my intro and dreading the conclusion! Thanks for the accountability offer. Shall we start on Tuesday? I'm hoping to have finished my intro by then so that can be my first target! How about you?
I too haven't finished my targets as hoped - my intro is taking longer than i though despite having worked pretty hard this weekend. I'm planning on getting it finished in draft form today and tidying it up tomorrow eve, then hopsfully I can move onto something else. Good luck with yours today, check back this eve to see how we've done? I usually work until about 7.30 if i can :)
Hey Swetch, just checking in with today's successes and failures! I've managed to get through a couple of thousand words of writing which is good - I've done my chapter summaries (with incorporated - albeit not very thorough - lit reviews) and now just have the methodology to cover in my intro. Am pretty sure i'll have tons of corrections on this though. After that I need to crack on with my conclusion chapter and with correcting my 4 main chapters. I wanted to get the intro in the bag today (well, yesterday in fact) but these things always seem to take longer than planned - even on a good day like today where thre was very little window-staring (although I did manage to sort out my T-shirt drawer for a good hour, oops!)
Hope yours has gone to plan. Hopefully by Thursday when I'm next at home i'll be almost done with this intro. Good luck until then (up)
======= Date Modified 07 Jul 2011 13:15:32 =======
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