Free yourself from internet distraction while you write your thesis

By James Hayton,
June 21, 2013
I'm James, I'm a former physicist (PhD, Nottingham, 2007) and author of "PhD: An Uncommon Guide to Research, Writing & PhD Life".
Since 2010, I've been helping PhD students all over the world overcome barriers in their research and writing
My strategies have helped thousands of PhD students just like you to build confidence, write better and finish on time

When I wrote my PhD thesis, there were many factors that helped me write fast.

But if I had to pick one thing- one defining factor in my success- then it would be this... I wrote it with no internet connection.

I knew that the internet was my Achilles heel. It was my biggest distraction, and if I didn't keep it under control then I would end up losing days and weeks doing nothing.

Willpower?

I could have tried to use willpower and self-discipline to avoid procrastination, but this takes effort to do.

Willpower is a limited resource and eventually it runs out. You know how it goes... after working for a while your brain starts finding reasons to go online...You start by telling yourself, "I'll just see if my supervisor has replied to that email", but in the 3 seconds it takes to load,  you've already opened a tab for facebook, and before you know it you have spent 45 minutes watching YouTube videos of cats.

Removing the option

If you remove the need for willpower to keep you offline, you can direct that effort towards your work instead. So I removed the option of going online and worked with no internet connection in my flat. There was simply no way I could get online from my home computer.

But... what if you need papers?!?

There was a time before the internet, when journals were only available in physical form, and searching for an article meant looking through pages and pages of abstracts in the library. So it is clearly possible to do without having an internet connection!

I did it using the internet connection at the university (a 10 minute bike-ride away). I would plan ahead and download the papers I needed. Next to my desk, I had a row of ring-binders stuffed full of articles, sorted by topic. So at any point I could reach out and grab the relevant articles.

What if you can't cut the internet off?

It might not be possible to cut the internet off completely, especially if you live with other people or have to work in an office at the university.If that's the case, I can strongly recommend downloading a program called "Freedom".

Freedom!

Freedom works by switching off your internet connection for a set amount of time.  If you set it to 60 minutes, then once activated you cannot access the internet. There is no password, there is no stop button, you are completely cut off until the 60 minutes are up.

You can also try cold turkey

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