working solo: tips for avoiding procrastination

"Students Studying"

Now that classes have come to an end, I spend most of my time alone reading and writing for my dissertation. In the UK, education is fairly hands-off, especially at the graduate level. Your supervisor will provide you with guidance, but for the most part, you are left to your own devices.

It is easy to get distracted or overwhelmed if you don’t have strategies for staying focused. I’ve come up with a list of things that have helped me stay on task. A lot of it is common sense, but I’d though I’d share it anyway.

  • Create a time line with your supervisor. Set deadlines for outlines, drafts, and meetings. This will make the 15,000 words seem less daunting and more manageable.
  • Use detailed labels for your articles, photos, documents, and folders. Your computer will search for files more efficiently if you use “_” instead of spaces (e.g. “Lury_Branding).
  • Continuously back up your files through an external hard drive or online. Also, save incrementally and under different names.
  • Maintain an up-to-date bibliography. The last thing you want is being unable to use a quote due to a missing source.
  • Establish a specific time and place for studying. I prefer working on the kitchen table in the afternoons, but many of my friends get too distracted at home, so they study in the library or their departmental computer lab in the mornings and afternoons.
  • Enjoy your evenings and weekends. As attempting as it is to just continue working through the night, give your mind a break — time to just relax, watch youtube videos, or hang out with friends. I like going to the gym or for a bike ride after a day of intense critical theory.
  • Reward yourself with a treat every time you finish a goal. My friends and I usually go for drinks at the pub after big submissions.

Photo by Flickr user Canadian Veggie

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