Dissertation Student-made

Dissertation Diary #3

Disclaimer: this is not to add to your stress if you’re doing a dissertation! I’ve decided to share where I’m up to and how I’m feeling so you can read something relatable, or maybe pick up a new tip. If you’re stressed, you certainly aren’t alone (and that’s a fact – because I’m stressed too!)

A lot has changed since the last time I wrote. I’m sorry if you’re fed up of hearing the C word, but it’s only right that COVID-19 gets a mention because it’s affected each and every one of us even if we haven’t been infected with the virus. Many students have had to leave Manchester, learn to participate in seminars online, adjust to changed deadlines and re-evaluate the way they work at home now campus has closed. We’ve had a lot to contend with, and I don’t know about anybody else but the anxiety surrounding the uncertainty of what’s to come and the sudden changes to our learning has presented obstacles for staying motivated. It feels like it’s been one hit after another with strike action, and now the outbreak of COVID-19. Of course, people have it worse than me, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a stressful time, and we are well within our rights to be stressed. If, like me, you’re still doing your dissertation through these unprecedented times then I can promise you that you aren’t alone in feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the current circumstances.

What I have also found particularly hard about my dissertation over the past few weeks is juggling it with other deadlines. I’ve grown to really enjoy working on my dissertation, and so taking a step back from it to prioritise more pressing deadlines has been a challenge! I don’t know if this is just me or whether other people feel this too, but I often feel guilty when I’m not working on my dissertation. We have other work to do, and it’s important to spend time on this work and complete it to a high standard. But I think there’s something about my dissertation being a significant piece of work – it’s 12,000 words and incredibly time-consuming! Perhaps that’s why I feel guilty when I’m not working on it.

However, despite the recent changes and anxieties COVID-19 has brought us, on the whole I am feeling pretty relaxed now about my dissertation. My School have been really understanding and flexible lately following the COVID-19 outbreak, which has made things easier to deal with. In terms of the dissertation itself, all of my research is done and sorted and now it’s just a case of continuing to write it up as a dissertation. It’s quite nice to see it all come together now, just as it is exciting and rewarding to see my arguments and conclusions come together in writing. I’m now also deadline free until May and with the Easter break approaching, I feel like I have loads of time to really perfect my dissertation.

As always, as we probably all do, I’ve picked up tips and tricks along the way to make working on my dissertation easier, especially in the current climate. So, with working at home in mind, here are some things I have found useful when working on my dissertation. They’re also relatable to any other work too!

Don’t undermine the impact of a pleasant workspace

Given the current situation, you might be working at home with other friends or family members, as I am doing. It’s so important you establish your own workspace so you can stay focused and minimise any distractions. If necessary, have a discussion with those you share your living space with to establish these boundaries if you haven’t already done so. I live at home, and so I am used to working at home. But with recent changes due to COVID-19, I now find myself at home with my mum and my younger sister. We’ve had to discuss who’s working where (I have now been moved from the kitchen table to my room to make way for my mum!) I was always put off working in my bedroom as I’ve always liked to keep work and relaxation / sleep space separate. However, I’ve found it useful to stay at my desk and resist the temptation of sitting on my bed with my laptop. Even little things like making your bed and then sitting at your desk help to create a separation between work and relaxation, despite it being in the same room. Keeping a tidy and clean desk is also key – a tidy and clean workspace makes you feel so much better.

Take breaks and get some fresh air (if possible)

Obviously, things are changing rapidly in response to COVID-19, but if it’s possible and you have no symptoms, it’s a good idea to get some fresh air during your breaks where possible (as long as you obey the social distancing guidelines). Even if you can’t get out, letting some fresh air in through a window, especially on a nice day, can help you to feel more alert if you’re spending a lot of time in one room. More generally, taking breaks is vital. Set regular intervals for moving away from your desk, and replenishing any snack or drink supplies you need. Regular breaks help keep the mind refreshed and alert. I often find that taking a break away from a bit of work I was struggling on and then coming back to it later can help to offer a fresh perspective or new ideas.

Stick to a routine, making the most of when you work best

Now that we are all forced to work from home, it can be easy to let your routine slide. Whilst campus has closed, it’s important to remember that we are all still at university with work to do – it’s just now all online and from home. As hard as it can be to stay motivated at times like these, remember it isn’t summer yet and there’s still grades to achieve. The best way to keep on track and motivated, for me personally, is to stick to a routine. I still get up relatively early because I work best in the morning, and I have a set routine for doing work, taking a lunch break, doing exercise etc. Feeling like there is still a structure and routine to my day keeps me organised and on track.

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