totally losing the plot


Most of my thesis is written. A few bits and pieces need sharpening up. I have a couple of months left before my deadline. So why have I suddenly hit the wall? For the past week I have made zero (and I do mean zero) progress despite having just had a 2 week holiday before that. I'm so close to finishing and now I can barely bring myself to even open word. I've tried listing everything I need to do, I've tried breaking it down into small manageable targets. I have no real reason to be lacking confidence at this stage but I've lost it all. Is this normal? It is almost as if the absence of any significant pressure has left me directionless and putting pressure on myself only makes it worse (makes the guilt worse). Help?


Hi PhDer,

my best suggestion would be to find a calm friend that sits quietly on their desks and work...
Having someone working concentrated next to me calms me down, and helps me concentrate.

Keep going (internet hugs)


The way you are feeling is not uncommon towards the end of a PhD. After putting in the blood, sweat and tears for so long, it's so tempting to take your foot off the gas when the end is really in sight.

I was part-time, and I found that e-mailing little TODO lists from my work e-mail to my home e-mail worked well when I came home and did an evening session on the thesis. I made sure that those things were all achievable within a couple of hours. Then I could go to bed feeling like I'd made progress. For the weekends, I just sent myself a large list, with the tasks that required a solid block of time to complete.

Two months out seems like ages, but when it becomes less than a month, all of a sudden the deadline looms out of the mist. So I would throw yourself into it, and then you will have a couple of luxury weeks to properly examine your thesis for errors and apply the polish.


It's the holiday. It's common to get lethargic and loose motivation for anything after a break. Stop the lists and plans that's just another form of procrastination. Open the doc and start work. You'll only do small bits at first but soon get back into it.


It's hardly procrastination. It's better to take five minutes to sketch out a plan each day and write a bullet point list, than to just sit down, open a document, and just 'work on it'. If the OP has two months remaining, then he's not at the stage where he has a blank document in front of him and just 'needs to write something'.


Hey OP - I had a similar problem recently, and all the listing and planning I usually do didn't help this time. In the end I decided on 4 small tasks I absolutely HAD to do every day (so for example - 'Read one paper' and 'spend 30 minutes writing').
I printed them out on the PC as a little to-do list, I printed about 10 copies. Every day I dated the list and ticked off those 4 little tasks as I did them. The tasks were all small and totally achievable in one day, and I found that these jump started the rest of my work for the day. By the time I got to the bottom of my stack of copies I was back in the flow and working through the day. I like to think of those 4 tasks as my drain unblockers now!
I hope you find your rhythm soon!


Barramack my point was the poster has already done listing and planning so now needs to find a way to act on those already made plans. Hence no need for more planning. Appolo advice on printing the list in small sections and sticking them on the PC to work through sounds like a very sensible motivating idea.


You need to plan on the fly when you get into the latter stages of a PhD. This tends to happen on a daily and weekly basis. On the basis of this planning, you come up with small to-do lists. This is what Apollo and myself have suggested to the OP, albeit using a slightly different approach.


I am getting close to the end as well - I feel exactly the same way. I basically have two chapters and the introdcution already, because I've actually had two papers published, and I'm STILL feeling like I want to call it quits and walk away from it right now...ridiculous, right? Always helps to know you're not the only one..


Do you have a complete draft of your thesis yet? I think I turned the corner in my PhD writeup when I had a complete draft of the thesis in front of me. That was when I truly believed I had it 'in the bag'.

Just keep at it, and you will hopefully feel that way before long.