Is it possible to be happy while you write your thesis?
I was. It was the most relaxed and enjoyable period of my whole PhD.
Even though I was working hard, I felt relaxed and in control, and I believe that if I can do it, you can be happy while you write too.
Here are 10 tips for being a happy thesis writer.
1. Look after yourself
Never neglect your basic needs. Eat well, sleep well, and do things to treat yourself from time to time. Get outside every day during daylight, take care of your appearance
If you neglect yourself, it will affect your ability to work. But if you make time to do these basic things then you are keeping some control over your own life.
2. Look after your work space
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to tidy your desk.
Though this has a practical benefit, it also has a psychological effect too, in that it gives you closure on the day and gives you a feeling of control over the work.
3. Stop while you still have something in reserve
If you just work until exhaustion, then it will be very difficult to work the following day.
This is easier to do if you…
4. Set parameters for success
What makes a successful day? How much do you need to achieve in order to be satisfied with the day’s work?
Don’t set the bar too high. If you plan to do as much as physically possible, then the best you can do is just reach your target, but anything less is a failure.
But if you set the bar at a level you know you can achieve consistently, then you can exceed your own target. I used a target of 500 words per day, because I knew I could achieve that even on a bad day.
5. Take time to think calmly
Writing well depends on thinking well. If you are stressed and panicking and have to write as fast as possible, you won’t be able to think.
Slow down, take some time. If you think you can’t do this, that’s a sign that you should!
6. Take pride in your work
Take time to do things well. It’s not perfectionism to put care into your work!
7. Focus on one thing at a time
You can only fully engage with the work if you know exactly what you are trying to do.
There will be times when this is difficult becasue there are so many things to do, but you just have to acknowledge them, put them to one side, and tell yourself, “it’s OK, I’ll get to that stuff later”
8. Focus on the present moment
You may find yourself anxious about the future… what will the examiner think? What if they ask something I don’t know? What if I fail? What if I can’t get this done in time?
Focusing on these things means you are distracted from doing the work, which makes the outcome you fear more likely!
You can’t necessarily make the thought go away, but you can acknowledge it and then calmly bring your focus back to the task at hand. Repeat when necessary!
9. Finish things as you go
Try not to leave things unfinished. Stay with the task until you are done.
If you leave big gaps, you are saving up all the hard work for later, but if you finish the section, you can move forward knowing that it is done.
10. Stay connected
Stay connected with the people around you. You may need to shut yourself away for hours to get work done, but you also need to emerge, reconnect with the world, and remind yourself that there is a life beyond your thesis.