BY KATHRYN PETERSON, PHD
Did you make a resolution to finish your dissertation in 2024? How’s that going?
If January seemed endless with little progress, don’t panic. You’re not alone. The good news is that January is over, and there is still plenty of the year left to get traction with your work. February is a clean slate, and you can make the most of it by embracing the following strategies.
Embrace Technology for Organization and Productivity
Use project management tools, like Asana or Trello, to help you organize your files, tasks, and thoughts. Create boards for different chapters, track deadlines, break down tasks, and enjoy the satisfaction of checking things off your list. Imagine the zen of a color-coded, beautifully organized dissertation journey!
Cloud storage platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox can be your secret weapons against the dreaded lost file. No more frantic searches for the “final_final_final” version and no more panicked conversations with IT as you attempt to retrieve lost data. Collaborate with others in real-time, access your work from anywhere, and sleep soundly, knowing you’ve safely backed up your files.
Networking platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams are your virtual co-working spaces. You can discuss research findings, brainstorm ideas, and connect with colleagues without leaving your comfy writing nook.
Prioritize Mental Health
Working non-step can be counterproductive. Schedule breaks specifically for self-care. Download a meditation app like Headspace or Calm for stress relief. Take a natural walk, listen to uplifting music, or indulge in a relaxing bath. Do that one thing you have always wanted to do for fun. Remember to feed your body with nourishing foods and to get the rest you need. It may seem like you don’t have time to do these things, but you don’t have time not to. A well-rested and less stressed mind is a more productive and creative mind.
Move Your Body, Boost Your Brain
Exercise isn’t just for physical fitness; it’s a mental health miracle worker. Get up and stretch a few minutes after every 45 minutes or hour of work, or even just walk around your desk chair. Go for a run, join a yoga class, or dance around your apartment like nobody’s watching (because, most likely, they probably aren’t). Endorphins are your friends, and they’ll help you conquer writer’s block and overwhelm. You don’t have to put hours and hours into it (although you can if you enjoy it!) but do try to move your body a little each day.
Connect and Confide
Don’t bottle up your struggles! Talk to loved ones, friends, or a therapist. Seek out those supportive voices, the ones who are going to empathize with what you are going through and not just ask you, “Have you finished your dissertation?” every five minutes. Find local or virtual groups specifically designed for grad students or others who will “get” you. Sharing your experiences and receiving encouragement can make a world of difference.
Celebrate the Small Wins
Every completed chapter, piece of thoughtful and constructive feedback, and successful presentation is a victory worth acknowledging. It can feel strange to honor the small steps along the path, but it’s important to do so. Too often, we rush from one place to another and from task to task without stopping to catch our breath or take a moment to recognize our tiny little victories.
Beyond the Defense: The Future Beckons
Remember, submitting your dissertation is just the beginning. As you prepare to defend your work and embark on the next chapter, remember that the skills you’ve gained, the knowledge you’ve acquired, and the resilience you’ve built will serve you well beyond the dissertation — regardless of whether you stay in academia. You’ve got this!