Archive for June 14th, 2012
1. Know what you have got to say
This is a huge one for me and I really ought to have learned it by now. More often than not, when the thesis stalls and I stop working on it, it’s because I don’t really know what I’m doing, not because I’m being lazy or bored or any of the other reasons I think. When I work out what I’m doing, it’s easy to make progress.
2. Have the research done
For me this means checking the secondary literature, making notes and so on. This not only helps with knowing what I want to say but also gives me something to hang what I’m saying on. Footnotes, references and quotes contribute significantly to wordcount but require minimal brain power to put in.
3. Sleep well at night
Not always easy to control but makes a huge difference to productivity. I have more or less cut caffeine out of my diet at the moment, which is helping me.
4. Eat well during the day
I have started buying ready-made sandwich fillers. I hate that I am buying them, but it does mean that I can make a sandwich in 30 seconds, almost as easily as opening a packet of crisps or eating a chocolate biscuit and pretending that’s lunch. Real food = real productivity.
It’s not that I haven’t knitted at all in the last few months, but what I have knitted has been stressful gift knitting or competition knitting and so on. I’m now knitting a jumper which involves miles of mindless stocking stitch which is perfect to pick up for ten minutes or more when I need a break.
6. Take long breaks
I used to feel guilty about this before this week. But my pattern in the last four days has been one hour of writing, one hour break. I can write 500-1000 words in an hour, so if I do that two or three times a day I’m well within the target for 10,000 words in a week. And I don’t feel dead at the end of it.
7. Watch tennis
I admit, this is not always possible or desirable. But I find that tennis is the kind of thing that doesn’t require constant attention and is quite soothing in the background. Sometimes music works, but I tend to prefer words or silence. Tennis gives quite a lot of silence without being totally dead. Queens is on BBC2 this week, then a week on Monday Wimbledon starts. I’m hoping for a very productive two weeks then.
8. Don’t try and do ten other things as well as the thesis
This is really, really hard for me in general and especially at the moment. I feel like I could be using all the non-thesis hours of the day for other work and especially writing. I’ve got three editors waiting to hear from me with stories and I haven’t worked on a single one all week. That’s tough. Partly because I like writing and I love the stories I’m working on. And partly because there is a nagging fear that these opportunities won’t last forever. But I honestly believe that the reason I’ve got so much thesis written is because I have had my mind on it all the time. It’s what I’m thinking about in the bath or in the car or when I’m in bed going to sleep. Normally, those are the times I’m thinking about my stories. My mind can’t make progress on both at once. I am not superwoman. This is hard to acknowledge.
So, okay, I have not written 10,000 words of my thesis this week and I probably won’t because I have a friend coming to stay for the next two days. But I have written over 8,000 words in four days and I know I can write the rest when I have the chance. And then I will have the final chapter done and the thesis almost complete.