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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:02 pm 
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I'm finishing off my last days of work this week, before heading off to the south of France, where I will join my parents for two weeks. It's a kind of self-inflicted isolation, so I can write 24/7 on my PhD, while I have lovely parents taking care of me (cooking meals, giving me some company when I come up for air after a write-session that lasted several hours)...
What more does a hard working PhD student/full time employed civil servant ask for?

Well maybe a boyfriend, to relieve stress in some other ways, but that might distract me as well, so maybe the staying at my parents' place really is a good idea ;-).

Any advice from you guys how to be the most productive in this marathon of sorts?

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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:28 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:23 pm
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Location: Munich, Germany
I'm not the best person to give advice when it comes to academic papers when I consider what a mess I was while writing my Master thesis... After I finished, I was in such an aweful state of mind that I decided not to take a job with my professor and write my PhD. Instead I chose a job in which I don't have to think too much ("Chicken or beef?", "Yes, the water IS indeed fat free!"), enjoy a lot of free time and have about zero duties after I have finished my working hours. It's been almost 5 years since I finished my thesis, and my blood pressure still rises when I think about the last 5 five months of my time at the university.

Anyway, I think it's very important to take breaks and set realistic goals. It always helped me a lot to think of my thesis as a job with regular working hours. For me that meant about 9 hours of "writing" each day. With reasonable breaks in between. On good days, when I was and felt productive, I went to the library at 8:00am, coffee break around 10am, lunch break from 12:30 till 1:15, then another coffee break (yes, I need a lot of coffee...) around 3pm and I stopped working at 4:30 or 5. Sort of a regular day at the office, I would say. On days where I would work according to this schedule, I was doing fine. But I often had the feeling that I wasn't doing enough, so I didn't take any breaks and stayed until 11pm at the library. It's not healthy to write from 8am until 11pm and then go to McDonald's and go on writing afterwards til 2am, just to get up at 7am to start all over again.

So if I were to write another thesis like this, I would really try to set up sort of a working schedule again and force myself to keep it up and work according to it. It was also very important for me to still make some time for social activities. Lunch with friends for example, or time for a nice work out. I needed a few hours each week to get my mind off of the acquisition of verbs by English-speaking mono-llingual children. Unfortunately, I didn't take enough time off and really had to suffer with health issues during the last weeks.

Oh my, this really sounds like a horror story. I was probably just a whiney little girl. ;) I wish you all the best for your PhD and hope that you will find your time in France productive. The SOuth of France is just beautiful, and hopefully you will find some time to enjoy it there. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:54 pm 
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Jewels wrote:
...I went to the library at 8:00am, coffee break around 10am, lunch break from 12:30 till 1:15, then another coffee break (yes, I need a lot of coffee...) around 3pm and I stopped working at 4:30 or 5.


Funny... this is EXACTLY what my day looks like at the office from Monday to Thursday (Friday is 8:00-1:30, with shorter breaks). Even the late coffee break fits. :mrgreen:


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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:02 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:23 pm
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Location: Munich, Germany
Lex wrote:
Jewels wrote:
...I went to the library at 8:00am, coffee break around 10am, lunch break from 12:30 till 1:15, then another coffee break (yes, I need a lot of coffee...) around 3pm and I stopped working at 4:30 or 5.


Funny... this is EXACTLY what my day looks like at the office from Monday to Thursday (Friday is 8:00-1:30, with shorter breaks). Even the late coffee break fits. :mrgreen:


Does that mean that my imagination of what a day at the office should look like, is actually realistic?


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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:01 pm 
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For what it's worth, I work most productively with no distractions or breaks. (I spent a LOT of time in uni eating at the keyboard.) Experiment with what works for you in terms of breaks.

Whatever you do, it's important to make sure you don't work for too long each day, or you'll quickly wear yourself out. And do allow yourself days off. Especially as you're in the South of France.

Jewels' advice on setting realistic goals is also very good - work out how much you want to be writing over the time you have, and work out how much you need to write per day to meet that. (Check that the figure you get at this point is realistic!) Some days you won't hit your goal and some days you'll beat it, but it's a good metric for approximately how well you're doing.

I shall also plug the excellent Write or Die at this point. For those days when you just can't get anything to come out, it makes you write *something*. Obviously, it'll need heavy editing later, and it doesn't really give you time for looking up references, which can also be inserted later, but having something written is a much better starting point for that than nothing. Many an experiment writeup of mine was saved by this in uni.


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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:51 am 
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Hi you guys, thanks for all the good tips.

As you might have guessed I have some experience with University writing (my master thesis went quite smoothly actually) but this one has been dragging on way too long, and it's waying me down.
Also I'm a perfectionist, so I might have to settle on a PhD which is OK and done, rather than perfect and not done ;).

I have already done one 14 day writing marathon and almost went nuts in the process. I did manage to write 60 pages of text but now the easy stuff is done and some of the hard stuff is left. Also some of teh 60 pages need a rewrite.

I'm hoping to get at least every chapter done in a rough chape by the end of the two weeks.
So that all that remains are rewrites and tweaking (and references and figures and tables and that ****.

But that's not really hard (mental) cramming work. It's more, shall I play minesweeper to get my mind to go blank, or will I change the layout of my tables...

Also, the Write or Die app is worth looking into, as procrastination is one of my big vices for the moment. But does that also work on non-Apple computers? And can you install it on more than one PC?

Elin

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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:03 am 
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The Write or Die app is cross-platform, and says in the FAQ on the buy page that installing on multiple computers is fine.

There's also an online version, which is free and still pretty good.


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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:45 pm 
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Location: Atlanta, GA
My fiancee and soon to be wife will be working her way through a school psychology PhD program so I am interested to hear suggestions for the other end of the relationship as well :-) She gained admission to a combined masters-PhD program and will be in school quite a while.


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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 10:44 am 
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musicpaladin2007 wrote:
My fiancee and soon to be wife will be working her way through a school psychology PhD program so I am interested to hear suggestions for the other end of the relationship as well :-) She gained admission to a combined masters-PhD program and will be in school quite a while.

Congrats to your fiancee for getting into the PhD program, Scott.
But I sadly can't help you with 'the other side of things' as I'm still single. :(

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 Post subject: Re: Off topic
PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:49 am 
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My girlfriend is working on her second bachelor degree. If your fiancée is anything like my GF, there's one very important thing: Don't be in the same room when she's working :D
It's just distraction for her, and if something doesn't work out there is the possibility of low flying objects in the room.


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