Eight Tips to survive your Thesis
Right, so the radio silence can be put down to one thing – Thesis writing!
As I have already mentioned – the second part of the course for Global Health is set aside to write your thesis. Now, admittedly this is the worst part of the entire course. Honestly, for a person like me who likes people, and interactive seminars, and horizontal learning – this sitting in isolation is dreadful.
So I cant say I have much to write about it – other than I dislike the process.
Having already done a masters thesis before, this process does not fill me with anything but dread… although to be fair – my last masters degree allocated a year for thesis writing not simply 3 months – to the pain was much more drawn out.
So here are some tips I have to make the experience a little more bearable:
1. ‘Treat it like a job’: Keep regular hours, get dressed, make sure you have a place to go, that gets you out of bed in the morning, and that every day you go and – at least you open your computer and try to work. You might not always be productive, in fact some days will be a waste, but they would be less of a waste than if you lay in bed – least of all for your self esteem. Getting dressed, seeing people, managing your nutrition, having a purpose cannot be underestimated or dismissed for its psychological benefits. Do it – your thesis is a job!
2.‘Create a Schedule – set up a Routine’: When you write a thesis, the time is your own, this is a bit of a dual edged sword – on one side this means you have no structure, and therefore your productivity is diminished, on the other side – it means you can determine what you do when and how! Make it your own – create a structure and take it seriously. There are important things you should include in setting up your structure – bear in mind that ‘all work and no play makes Jack a Dull boy!’ – so make sure (if for nothing else than mental health) that you allocate time to other things other than work! Some important inclusions:
- Exercise – this is critical both for endorphins and for simply clearing your mind – it is coming up to spring, so get out doors, get some fresh air – Stockholm is the right city for that – there are an abundance of pretty walks and parks. Or – use your gym contract – do classes- these get you out into the light, with music, people and some interaction. Sign up and go – you need to surround yourself with people at every opportunity you can.
- Identify a reasonable number of work hours you can achieve in a day and stick to them – it could be four it could be 6… don’t push to hard, when I was studying for my law exams I used to allocate 16 hours a day. This had the negative result of pushing me into hysteria if I had not managed to clock two productive hours by 8 am in the morning! NOT PRODUCTIVE! BE REASONABLE! BE FLEXIBLE – if you allocate four – you can do those four in the morning, or at night, or after gym – leave room for SPONTANEITY – it feeds the soul!
- Social life: People are social beings – recognize this – and balance it into your schedule. My class has set up a weekly after thesis Wednesday drink – just to try to keep some of the ‘social glue’ going on in the class.
- Attend Conferences: So you will find that the first half of the course you have ZERO time to attend talks and conferences unless you skip class. Now that you have time – USE IT! We have a very proactive and diligent character in our class who goes to every talk, seminar etc. and keeps his finger firmly on the pulse of KI. Do the same!
3. Have a space to work: This does not mean you need an office, or a desk with your name on it. It simply means – know where you are going to work and go there! (an office might be a negative thing, as this provides a space where people can guarantee you are present and can come and interrupt you when they see fit!) – not HELPFUL! I find I work at Coffee shops – just to spice things up there – you can get a piece of cake, a nice soy latte and actually nourish your soul a little – My recommendation is the Espresso House, next to K25 on Kungsgatan –
4. Treat yourself – now this does not need to get out of hand… I have met people who treat themselves for making their beds in the morning (if you at that stage… mmmm…. Contact me!?)… but -I do mean – reward yourself. I am very bad at this – cause I rather rule my life with a stick rather than a carrot. By reward – I don’t mean a Victoria’s secret shopping spree (or Tiger of Sweden/Acne/Ralph Lauren.. check where applicable)… I mean a piece of cake, or a dvd, or music and a glass of wine while you are doing menial tasks. If the sun is out – take advantage of it, find a coffee shop with a view – work there. Make a good healthy, treaty nutritious meal. (if you want recipes I have PLENTY!) A friend of mine in my class (and a very experienced researcher) treats herself simply by staying at home, where she has a view of the trees and the water, that she can look at while she drinks her coffee and reads through papers…This is a process – try enjoy it as much as you can.
5. ‘Dress for the job you want to have – …not for the one you have’: A very ambitious and wise friend of mine once said this to me, and she is right. At this stage of your degree you are probably beginning to look for work. Also you need to get out of bed each day… so the psychology behind this suggestion is simple. Get up, get dressed, look in the mirror – like your reflection – feel good about yourself. Start to visualize where you want to be at the end of this process, it will help putting things in perspective. Dress accordingly! Slumming it around in your pajamas is not going to do any one any good (least of all your mental state)!
6. Set goals: If it is finding a job, or finishing a section, or crunching a certain set of numbers, give yourself goals to work towards – this is a motivator in itself. A Dream board has been mooted as a good way to do this!
7. ‘Get enough sleep, Eat Properly’: I think this goes without saying, but it is easy to forget… especially when you get hooked on the House of Cards series (those episodes are long and you can wake up at 3 am on Episode 5 of Season 2 and not know where you are or how you got there, on top of which you have now messed up your sleep cycle for the night)! My aunt (basically my mother) – has always been a voice of reason when it comes to nutrition and studying… almonds, blueberries and most recently carbohydrates (not fond of the last one!) are her suggestions for some of the necessary fuel components needed to aid your studying. Find out what works for you – remember – healthy body = healthy mind!
8. Be kind to yourself! (finally) – at least try….
Hope this helps! If you have any other suggestions, tips or experiences, please share them – it’s a horrid process – so try make is simply a process and subtract the ‘horrid’ as much as you possibly can!!