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How to Stay Sane While Writing a Thesis Presented by Annette Stevenson Student ASSIST 6773 2897 Building C37 – between the Deli Café and newsagent up top.

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Presentation on theme: "How to Stay Sane While Writing a Thesis Presented by Annette Stevenson Student ASSIST 6773 2897 Building C37 – between the Deli Café and newsagent up top."— Presentation transcript:

1 How to Stay Sane While Writing a Thesis Presented by Annette Stevenson Student ASSIST Building C37 – between the Deli Café and newsagent up top

2 What today will aim to cover Identify your study goals as well as the strengths and any weaknesses that you bring to your study Rollercoaster of peaks and troughs Procrastination traps Overcoming the dreaded writers block and feelings of isolation How to manage your time and to minimise stress

3 Me and My Post-Graduate Study 1. My long-term goal(s) for my study is… 2. The strengths I bring to studying are… 3. The things that are impeding my study are… 4. My good coping strategies are…

4 Research Thesis Rollercoaster (Elphinstone & Schweitzer, 1998) Normal to have highs and lows From excitement to sense of failure in a week 3 ds – depression, doubt, desperation vs enjoyment and elation The self-saboteur The obsessive-compulsive side of you The anti-social you Post PhD blues

5 High Dependency on Supervisor (Elphinstone and Schweitzer, 1998)

6 Medium Dependency on Supervisor (Elphinstone and Schweitzer, 1998)

7 Low Dependency on Supervisor (Elphinstone and Schweitzer, 1998)

8 Common doubts (adapted from Elphinstone and Schweitzer, 1998) Ive picked the wrong topic Re-read proposal, review reasons for discarding other topics The data are all wrong Be open to results going either way and testing hypotheses I cant write anything Make writing a routine. Some writers block is normal The end is so far. I will never finish SMART goals (specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, time- framed

9 Common doubts cont This isnt good enough. It should be perfect No such thing as the perfect thesis. Not your final work. Have other strings to your bow. Ive left something out Maintain perspective. Clear rationale. Project boundaries. Im not up to this. Im not good enough. Progress journal. Identify strengths. Why am I doing this? Why am I putting up with this pain? Revisit why you took this on. Identify internal and external sabouteurs. Support people. If I finish this, I will never write another thing From burnout to book, article, etc. Visualise completion.

10 Study Spirals Downward spirals 1.Action (set a goal and didnt make it) Feeling (frustrated) Thought (This is frustrating) 2.Action (set another goal and didnt make it) Feeling (anxious) Thought (Why bother?) 3.Action (not bothering, avoiding) Feeling (unmotivated or anxious) Thought (I could fail. I am failing)

11 Study Spirals cont Upward spirals 1.Action (set a minimal goal and make it) Feeling (feel in control of work) Thought (Ive achieved something) 2.Action (set another goal and make it) Feeling (energised and motivated) Thought (I am getting there) 3.Action (Achieving goals and doing well) Feeling (in control, motivated, happy, energised) Thought (I am going to finish this. Im passing)

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14 Staying motivated Remember that tenacity, endurance and motivation are important attributes Keeping a journal, or a web log – blog Acknowledge and celebrate your progress Stay connected – dont isolate yourself. Join postgraduate peer support groups - online program for postgraduate students (research, literature, endnote, career) eSkills Plus Meeting Place – a social space for UNE postgraduates Attend seminar/discussion groups Peer support and/or supervisory groups (formal, informal?)

15 Procrastination Styles Perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, defier, crisis-maker, over-doer (Grant and Greene, 2003) How do I feel about the task that Im putting off now? What are the advantages of starting this right now? What are the disadvantages of leaving it until later? What excuses am I making for not doing this task right now? Will it kill me to do it for a few minutes at a time? How can I break the task down into manageable sections? What reward can I give myself for finishing it? (Grant and Greene, p. 83, 2003)

16 Procrastination Stoppers Warm up your mind Be specific about what you are avoiding List advantages and disadvantages to doing or not doing the task Challenge the part of you that doesnt want to do the task Plan tasks in advance Visualise yourself completing the task Do a mental warm up – revision, brainstorming, etc Swiss cheese technique – do anything related to task Set yourself goals Set time limits Review progress, learn from mistakes Record progrss/achievements on wall chart, in journal, etc Salami technique – break task into steps – do one at a time Aim to spend 10 min a day on unpleasant tasks Contract with others what you want to achieve

17 Procrastination stoppers cont Make physical changes Stretch, change posture, exercise Attractive and inviting work environment Go to distraction free place Work alongside someone who works well Have a sounding board Stay positive Dont look at decisions as right vs wrong – most decisions have pros and cons Replace negative thoughts such as I cant, I wont Visualise self completing task Pretend to be the well-organised non-procrastinator Say no to requests. Be assertive. State your needs. Ask for help

18 Hints for Pushing Through Writers Block Drafts – for your eyes only at first Dont wear critical and creative hats at the same time See writing is an evolutionary act Proofreading vs rewriting with critical hat on Copy editor for final draft Write about anything – get creative juices flowing Speak, verbalise, have conversations about your ideas Mindmap your ideas Mental warm ups – revising drafts, chapters Be physical Change physical environment Carry a notebook Focus on the smaller chunks vs bigger picture Do something creative Write how you feel about your thesis (unblock emotions)

19 Time Management Exercise Think about areas in your life in terms of time. Do you give each area of your life your preferred proportion of time or would you like to re-balance the way you allocate your time? NB: 7 x 16 waking hrs/day = 112 hrs 70 hrs = 63% 35 hrs = 31% 20 hrs = 18% 10 hrs = 9%

20 Time Management Exercise cont CURRENT....0%ACADEMIC WORK....0%HOME DUTIES eg housework, shopping, showering, cooking, etc....0%RELATIONSHIPS WITH SIGNIFICANT OTHERS eg things we do to enhance our relationships with those with whom we are very close....0%SOCIAL eg things we do to meet people, enjoy friends & extended family....0%PERSONAL eg things we do for ourselves....0%OTHER eg paid employment PREFERRED....0%

21 Time Management – The Central Skill Yearly planner – set deadlines for each step Reading - define general area Reading - designing study (have just in case time) Reading - collecting data (asap) Reading - analysing data (computer hold-ups) Writing - rough draft Editing to final copy stage References/Appendices Proof-reading Printing and Binding Hand in Time!

22 Minimising stress Physical (body) Exercise Yoga Diet Sleep Emotional (feelings) Talk to significant others Writing Asserting needs Humour Cognitive (thoughts) Positive self-talk Improving concentration Communication Social interaction Behavioural (actions) Time management Holiday time during candidature Negotiating supervision contract/arrangements Arrange for a computer, and any other resources you need

23 Organising Yourself Read down the list of statements, ticking those you feel apply to you. Alter statements so that they apply to you better. Note down any reservations or differences you have.

24 Organising Yourself cont I dont think I work as hard as I could I couldnt tell you how many hours I put in last week. I often seem to leave things like essays/writing till the last minute. I find it hard to get down to work. I dont seem to be able to stick at a task (like reading through a chapter) for very long. I think that others do more than me. I dont find it easy to talk to others openly about how much work Im doing. Im never quite sure what Ive got to do next. I sometimes take ages to get going. Im not sure whether Im doing enough or not. I tend to flit from one task to another. I seem to work better in some places than others. I work rather irregularly, putting in lots of time one week and practically none the next. Im generally behind, sometimes several weeks behind schedule. There is no way I could do all the work Im expected to. Im not sure I always do the most important things first. Im not sure Ill be able to keep going right to the end of this course. I dont have any sort of long-term plan for my work.

25 Source -

26 References Grant, A. and Greene, J. (2003) Coach Yourself. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing. Elphinstone,L and Schweitzer, R. (1998) How to Get a Research Degree – A survival guide. Australia: Allen and Unwin.


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