The human brain is a funny thing. Even when we have a great reason to do something—a clean house, money, more free time, better health, greater knowledge—we somehow find ways to procrastinate and dawdle, preferring the easier but less preferable present to the more difficult but more rewarding future.
Writing a thesis is much the same. Even though the potential rewards are exceptional—an impressive title, greater job opportunities, academic recognition, personal satisfaction—it can be incredibly difficult to knuckle down to the hard work of finishing your thesis.
So, how do you get motivated? Here are some tips to maximise your motivation and get your thesis written:
Create big goals for your life
Before you even begin researching your thesis, write down a few key goals for yourself that your thesis will facilitate. Whether it is getting a job at a university, writing a book, being recognised as an expert in your field, getting the opportunity to work for a big company, increasing your salary expectations or starting your own business, you should make some life goals that completing your thesis will help facilitate. If you’re finding it difficult to write a particular chapter or if you’re in a funk, come back to those goals and then attack your thesis with renewed energy. You may like to stick these somewhere around your workspace to remind yourself of these goals.
Create small goals for your thesis
A small goal might be ‘I will write at least 1000 words per day for this week’, or ‘I will tidy up my reference list today’. You may like to add in some goals like cleaning up your workspace, exercising or filing your notes that aren’t so urgent but help facilitate productivity and add to your sense of achievement.
Create a schedule
Make yourself a schedule—actually write it out in a diary or calendar—and then (and this is the key) stick to it! If you work consistently and stick to your own deadlines, you’ll have more time to recharge and you’ll be less stressed as the big deadlines approach.
Think of rewards that will make attaining your goals even better. If your goal is to write a certain number of words, give yourself a small reward to incentivise yourself. Goals and incentives work hand in hand to get you over the line of a difficult task.
Daydream, just a little
Imagine how good life will be once you attain your big goals. While most of us dream of certain goals, we usually have to do something unappealing to get there: whether it’s saving more of your income to retire earlier or doing lots of exercise to lose weight. Spend some time picturing how your life might be after finishing your PhD, and then remember that getting there is in your hands and that the short-term sacrifices required are completely worth it.