Since January 1st, I have been writing and reading for my thesis. At the end of January, I had the first three chapter drafts done and I am currently working on the fourth chapter. Living back at home, getting ready to move in a few weeks, taking care of my father, working on an ethnography project, and working/teaching – all of these have been great distractions and have often interrupted my work. The most effective method to keep me motivated and on task has been to treat writing as a job. I have set a block of time aside each day to completely dedicate my time to just writing and reading. I am a morning person so the time I have set aside is 5 am to 1 or 2pm. Usually 6-7 hours just purely dedicated to that time to work. However, I do spend my ‘downtime’ (the time when I am not teaching or any of the above activities) to read articles, free hand notes, or type up notes. I try dedicate as much time as I can without getting to overwhelmed.
So about 6 hours a day for 7 days, is the minimum time I dedicate towards writing. Life happens and things come up, so if I have a set time when I am just working on thesis writing I have at least accomplished the minimum for the day. If I was getting paid to do this at minimum $10 an hour…I would be working roughly 42 hours and making about $420 a week (if only). Realistically I spend anywhere from 6-10 hours a day writing or reading.
In addition to treating this as a job, I have been recording the time I spend each day and the accomplishments I do. Such as – when I finish a draft. I set weekly goals of what I would like to accomplished and have done. And then I set a monthly goal. I am a goal and deadline oriented individual. (I tend to obsess over it a little). I record them in three locations (I am a lil OCD about scheduling and calenders) I have a small notebook that I keep with me at all times in either my purse, gym bad, computer case, etc. In this I drew a monthly calender with the goals on one side and then each day I record the time that have spent (usually 6am-1 or 5am-1p) fully dedicating my writing, what I was able to accomplish that day (if anything), and what my goals are for that week. I take the notebook with me all the time because there is nothing worse than having a random thought or an idea and no where to write it. So this way if I am working out, at a store, waiting for my father at an appointment, or where ever; I have somewhere to record my thoughts. The second, is a monthly and daily planner that I use for everything from teaching/work schedule, appointments, etc. I record the time that I spend on writing and schedule everything else in life around that block of time I have dedicated on the thesis. The third, is the Google calender that is synced with my email and my phone. Same use as the daily planner.
You don’t have to be completely oppressive as I am. This is how I operate and it works for me. I am extremely OCD about planning, scheduling, and recording everything.
I feel accomplished when I work hard to and I am able to achieve the goal I have set for myself. I try to set the goals to be easily achievable a week and reasonable. I know what I am capable of so I stay within the boundaries of what I know I can do. Last thing I want is to be burnt out and slacking on the work.
There are days when I have writers block or do not know what the next step should be. Those are the days when I reread sources, reread notes, try to think of new ways to approach my research with the theory I am using. I find ways to motivate myself. Even if I only write maybe a sentence or two one day, I read and I know that I have at least dedicated some time to writing.
The goals for the month of February are focused on trying to complete a full first draft of my thesis. I have moved some of my chapters around and I have combined a couple of them. I plan to have an appendix of a timeline, census, and background histories of the cultural groups. But those can wait. But for not if I can achieve finishing a complete draft by the end of the month. I have March and April to do revisions and work towards a final draft, and eventually present and defend my thesis by the beginning of the summer. Some of this is motivated by my husband coming home from deployment in March. I would like to get a majority of the writing out of the way, so that I can dedicate time to him when he comes home.
To keep everything organized, I have a Thesis Binder that contains checklists of what I need for my thesis and prospectus, book notes, articles and notes, projects that will be included in the Appendix. I have big tabs and little tabs (if you haven’t picked it up, I am a little OCD about organization). My tabs are as follows: Thesis Process Information (with small tabs: Thesis information and AAA style guide); Approved Documents (my prospectus is currently in there, and my thesis committee signatures); Notes (with small tabs: LOTR book notes, book/scholar book notes, and article notes); Projects or Appendix Additions; and finally Articles.
This helps me stay organized and I have everything typed up and in one place. I am sure that it will expand and more tabs will be added.
So far, this has all worked out well for me. I am on schedule with my goals and I am still able to work on other things than just my thesis (such as an ethnography). I don’t want my thesis to be overwhelming or be something that I dread doing. I want to have fun and keep it interesting while staying motivated and on task.
I am this organized and goal oriented with everything that that I do from graduate course, working/teaching, home management, etc. So this isn’t something I had to teach myself. I have heard others who have a rough time getting through and staying motivated. I am always here to give advise when someone needs tips on staying motivated and being organized.