According to my graduate program, my graduation is dependent on my thesis submission at the end of my last semester, Spring of 2021. If I could predict with confidence that I would have the time to whip up a 20-30 page thesis paper during my last semester, then I wouldn’t be here writing this article. But, like most of us, I don’t have the luxury of waiting, as tasks at work fluctuates at an unpredictable rate. A couple of weeks ago I came to the realization that the mandated COVID-19 stay-at-home order puts me in a unique position, where I can bundle my morning routine and commute time for work, and repurpose it into a productive writing session to start my thesis. After evaluating my work load, I put together a timeline that will allow me to complete my thesis — a schedule of 108 days.
Set your Space
Compartmentalizing is one of my superpowers. Work, School, and Home stay in their own corners mentally and physically. So you can imagine how stressful it was to have to figure out a way to address all three areas of my life from my 10 X 10 bedroom. Any concept of physical separation has been slashed (thanks, but no thanks COVID-19). To get over this hump I empower you to find a space in your home that makes you feel the most productive. Customize the space with anti-anxiety placements such as opening a window, lighting a candle, or even playing some light music. Do whatever it takes to help you minimize your anxiety and stay focused. Soon you will find that your mind and body will associate that area with “getting work done” — and won’t struggle as hard as you did on day one.
Early Bird Gets The Worm
Let’s address the relationship between geography and sound. My bedroom is a hotspot for absorbing sound. Any noise that occurs adjacent to my room, including footsteps, pots banging, typing on the family computer, etc. can be heard from my dedicated workspace. This can become super problematic if you are trying to focus on a complex problem. For my particular situation, I decided that waking up at 4 AM and having a three-hour thesis writing session is the best plan for me. By cutting out distracting noises, I find an easier time focusing and getting through my daily goals. If this wasn’t enough reason, I also find that after a long day of work, accomplishing any tasks is super hard. Mental fatigue usually hits me after working for 9 hours. By sleeping early, and having my writing sessions as the first thing I do in the day, allows me to write with a well-rested brain. Of course, you could always just take a nap and write during the later hours of the day, but my job requires me to be up super early for 7:30 AM meetings so staying up would just make me miserable.
I created a document that doubled as a week by week progress tracker and an overall curriculum view of the 108 days of writing. While creating this tracker, I realized that there were some interesting questions that came up about my topic that could be really fun to explore, such as creating a business solution. Whilst putting together my tracker, I found myself having to add more and more time to the initial timeline, going from 60 days to 108 days. The more I analyzed my topic, the more I wanted to include in it. And of course, the more you want, the more research you have to do. Personally, I came to the conclusion that I needed to do 21 days of pure research about Postpartum Depression and non-profits before diving into writing. The thesis tracker gives me a sense of progress on a micro and macro scale, and gives your advisor a sense of where you are at any given time to promote transparency and accountability.
Speaking of advisors…we at Simply-Prepared LOVE ADVISORS. You honestly cannot go wrong with having a couple of advisors at different stages of your thesis writing journey. Advisors are there to help you think through complex issues, help shape your writing path, and advise you on how to proceed in your thesis. Having a detailed timeline for your advisor to refer to allows more time for you both to focus on content. Make sure to set up a recurring meeting with your advisor once every 10 business days. This will ensure that you have more impactful updates on your thesis without feeling you are meeting too frequently, or too scarcely. Having a shared document where you post your questions, and concerns will make for an excellent meeting agenda for when you do meet. By having frequent meetings with your advisor, you are given a chance to experience that, while cultivating a wonderful academic relationship.
Advisors are awesome but not your only resources. By including people in your lives to participate in reading your thesis you would find concepts and mistakes that you and your advisor missed. Our proximity to the topic and paper are so close, that some terms that are common sense to us might still need explaining for others.For example, I am a big fan of HIIT workouts, and when I tell my friends “I went to the gym and did a HIIT work out” they think I’m going to the gym and hitting things. Without a proper explanation of the concept, our audience misunderstands our points, which is detrimental for our paper. Bringing an outside perspective will help give you some insight on what might not be clear and how you can improve. Overall, it will also give you a sense of if your thoughts are comprehensible, and if you are on the right track. Try to time this phase of the writing process after you have incorporated the feedback from your advisor.
Our last point of the day is staying consistent. Similar to saving money, or learning a new habit… you must work consistently. Whether you are writing every day, or twice a week, try to hit the goals you set. Staying on track will ensure that you finish on time and do not overwhelm your-future-self. Motivation over this period of time will fluctuate. Thus we plan around motivation and strive to hit our goals instead. If you are feeling super motivated, then go full throttle and hit your paper writing milestones! If you are feeling unmotivated, then just finish your goal for that particular writing session. It happens to everyone, and there isn’t a magic pill for it. Trick yourself into just getting it done. I promise you, you don’t want to work extra hard the next day because you have to… you should work extra hard because you want to! As you write, keep in mind that the goal is to work consistently, at a comfortable pace, and finish on time.
Whether you are a full-time student or a full-time employee, I promise that if you take the time in understanding how to budget your time and space correctly, you will be on the path to success.