Writing up can be a long and stressful process, but how do you stay productive day after day? The long process of writing, re-reading, editing, and formatting repeatedly can make you very prone to not following through your efforts and fall into the procrastination trap. Here are our handy tips for staying productive and avoid procrastination from this lengthy process:
Deal with writers block
There are bound to be times when the words just don’t seem to flow, and this can be very frustrating as you end up doing something else, leaving that section unfinished. No amount of staring at your laptop screen is going to inspire you, so it’s best to deal with your writers block in other ways:
Edit a previous chapter – if the words aren’t flowing on your current chapter then go back to a previous one, re-read it and make any necessary edits. Re-reading your own work will help to bring your focus back to the current chapter.
Re-read an important journal – if the inspiration for your dissertation came from a particular journal article, go back and re-read it in order to remember what inspired you in the first place.
Keep writing – have a draft word document open or use a notebook and pen, but just keep writing. It might never make it into your dissertation but it can help you to clear some of the clutter from your mind.
Break down your work
If the amount of work you have to do is so over-facing that you don’t even want to begin, break it down into manageable chunks and focus on one at a time. Small chunking this would give you extra motivation to start feeling like you do not have a massive mountain to climb. You’ll also be able to hone your concentration onto one small topic at a time and know exactly what you need to do each day.
Don’t be afraid to stop
Your deadlines are important, but so is your health. Working all day, every day on your dissertation is a sure-fire way to losing your focus and making random web browsing your new favourite pass time. Whenever you feel like you are spending your time doing anything else when you should be typing up, go take some regular time out from the desk to recharge your batteries. This will help you work more efficiently when you do so and avoid taking a long time to complete simple tasks.
Even the most dedicated students lose concentration after a few hours, which is why you should try to take regular breaks throughout the writing process to collect your thoughts and refresh your brain. Don’t feel guilty going for a run, meditating, getting lunch with friends or just making yourself a cup of tea. Getting away from your workspace can reset your motivation and allow you to come back to your work with a new perspective and a lot more focus. By keeping writing sessions short and sweet and having regular breaks throughout the day, you’ll soon see your productivity skyrocket.
Have a clear working space
A chaotic workspace can quickly become a distraction and by decluttering you’ll be keeping disruptions at bay. Try and write at a desk or table (not on your bed!) – you’ll feel much more productive and won’t be tempted to start procrastinating. Having a designated box or file for all your paperwork can also be handy, as you can keep everything you need in one place and won’t be wasting time searching for something you need for that day.
Ask for help
The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Every student will feel what you’re feeling at some point during the process, so there’s no shame in asking for help when you’re struggling to advance. Peers can be a great motivator, just because they know what you’re going through. Your supervisor or tutor are also there to help. Remember, if things are really getting you down the Student Support and Advice team, based in the Atrium in University Place can help.
Look after yourself
Writing your dissertation will consume a lot of your time, but that doesn’t mean that you should neglect your health and wellbeing.
Sleep is really important; don’t be tempted to work into the night just because you’re on a roll. You need plenty of rest in order to stay consistently productive! Clear your room of clutter and distractions (that means no phones, no computers, no work!) and try and get about eight hours if you can. It’ll help your concentration and the quality of your work. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time each morning to keep your sleeping pattern steady.
Healthy food is also key for boosting that brain power. Why not snack on something healthy instead?