Creating a PhD thesis is an incredibly long project, filling three or four years full-time, or six or more on a part-time basis. It can be quite difficult to stay motivated throughout (and, indeed, through a shorter BA or MA dissertation), so here are a few tips and tricks which I feel might help if you’re desperately wanting to do something – anything! – else.
- Split up your study time into manageable chunks; create a routine for yourself. I tend to work from nine until five every weekday, with a break of forty minutes or so for lunch, and the odd five minutes away from the books or keyboard throughout the day in order to make cups of tea, answer texts, check Instagram, or talk to a friend. A routine like this can really help you to be productive during the week, whilst giving you well-earnt weekends off, in which you can exercise your freedom.
- Allow yourself a treat; for every text you read, block of notes which you type up, or 1,000 words you write, go ahead and eat that doughnut, have that much-needed nap, or order that new top/book/lipstick, etc..
- Talk to someone about your project; I have found that discussing what you are setting out to do, and what you have achieved in the last week or month with a friend or academic acquaintance can be very therapeutic, and can rekindle your love for your subject. It doesn’t have to be an in-depth discussion; try talking to someone for five minutes about what you’re setting out to do, and feel the passion just flowing back in swathes.
- Vary your reading; it’s easy to feel as though you are reading about the same topics over and over – which, let’s face it, at this level, and when working on one particular topic, you probably are. Try and choose something a little different for yourself, and always endeavour to have a book close to hand which isn’t anything to do with your project, but which you still want to do. If you feel as though you need a break from research, read a chapter or two.
- Meditate, or practice yoga; It’s important to do constructive things which are still useful in your daily life, and such exercises can strike the right chord. I’ve not personally meditated before, but I do have a daily pilates routine, which I feel relaxes me.
- Go for a walk or run; if you’re really stuck, a little tired, or you just want a little fresh air, go out and explore. Whether walking or running, fresh air will do you the world of good, and is sure to invigorate you for the rest of the day.
- Write something; choose a topic which isn’t related to your project, and do a little creative writing. If you prefer structured writing, then create a blog, or write a book review of something which you read recently. The process should help to calm and invigorate.
- Have a day off; or even a week off. At this level, ‘me’ time is so important. It’s very easy to get stuck in a routine of working seven days a week and feeling like you never have a break. Taking time for yourself, in which to do things that you love – relaxing, exploring new places, maybe even taking a holiday – is both welcome and expected. For your wellbeing alone, try taking a midweek weekend, where you do everything you like to do on your days off. It will make sure that any stress you’re feeling will go right away.
I hope that these motivational tips are useful to you, and if you have anything else to share which helps you to relax and stay on top of and interested within your project, please let us know in the comments.