Thesis Writing Full Time #1: Finding My Feet

On January 30th I finished data collection for my PhD (AHHH!), on January 31st I then submitted the final report for the grant that funded the bulk of my PhD research, and since then I’ve been thesis writing full time. Honestly, I was really excited to get to this stage, and it hasn’t gone quite as expected – so I thought I’d write a blog post both to remind myself that I am less than a week in and still finding my feet with it, and to try and shed some light on the process for those that are thesis writing too (or soon will be).

The Good Bits

I’ll start with the good – I’ll ease you in gently.. Doing this thing full time means that I can sit down and really focus on what I’ve done. Before doing this, there was a lot less paper in my life, but I also didn’t have a realistic overview of how much I’ve achieved in the last 2 and a half years. I’ve collected a tonne of data, and I’ve learned to analyse and interpret it so that it might actually be useful for people in the trials community! Hoorah for learning stuff!

Thesis writing full time also means I can work when and where you want to. For me this has been brilliant because I can ensure that I’m the most productive that I can be. Before, I had brilliant intentions of getting up, showered and at my desk for 8am every day, but that just hasn’t happened. The most productive times of the day for me are 3pm until 6pm, and then after dinner until I go to bed (which can be super late). Before 3pm I do a lot of ‘pottering’ – basically, stuff that needs doing but that isn’t actually writing. Reading, finding the right references, putting together draft zeros for different chapters, all interspersed with various life admin and chores. At the weekend I’m pretty good around noon until 4pm, and because I’m able to choose when I work and when I take breaks, the whole working at the weekend thing is working out pretty well. I don’t feel like I’m going to burn out, and I’m getting through the writing at a decent pace.

I’ve also turned my office into a little thesis-writing cave, which has been so brilliant. Firstly, it gave me a kick to sort my desk space out, and secondly (most importantly) me working from home has given my other half a kick to sort out his half of the office too – I hate clutter and can’t work when there’s too much stuff around to distract me.

The desk space – yes that it a bear shaped pencil case, yes that is a dog shaped tape measure, and yes they are tiny wooden desk pets – I’m not allowed a dog and these were a hilarious replacement that arrived in the form of a Christmas gift from my parents. I am 26 and until I’m allowed a dog, this is what my desk space will continue to look like.
The Bad Bits

Ok, now on to the bad. I’ve been having a super wobbly mental health week. I always work best under pressure – i.e. juggling a million things and working from a packed To Do list, but working on the thesis entirely (I do still have some other projects running but for now my input is minimal) has alleviated all of that busy energy and self-imposed pressure, and my brain hasn’t coped very well with this new found freedom. It’s weird.

On the bright side though, the past week has already taught me a lot the coping strategies I need to implement (more on those in a later blog post). Ultimately I think that this little wobble has been a useful learning experience for me (re-reading this for typos and oh my god, have I turned into an academic now?! – ‘no failures, just learnings’), like I said it’s helping me to develop my own coping strategies, and it’ll make sure that I’m more resilient when I’m in a job where I don’t have the luxury of working from home at weird hours.

It still feels a bit weird to say that I’m writing my thesis; it doesn’t feel like I’ve been doing my PhD long enough for it to be that time yet – so, so weird. Anyway, I have a chapter of qualitative research to write, so I’ll leave this one here.
I’ll be posting a few blogs posts as I go through this process, but if there’s a big gap between postings just assume I’m sat at my desk, typing away with a hot water bottle on my knee.

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5 thoughts on “Thesis Writing Full Time #1: Finding My Feet

  1. Karen Bracken

    Sorry to hear you’ve had a tough week and I hope next week is better. If it makes you feel any better, just reading your blog title filled me with fear for what is coming for me in just 6 months’ time so you are certainly not alone. I don’t feel ready to write my actual thesis yet! It sounds so daunting and final.
    I’ve also been setting up a desk space at home this week (although it is sadly lacking in desk pets). I’m so relieved to be able to work at home and not be sitting at the kitchen bench. Being in the right physical space is so important for being in the right head space.
    Sending out positive writing vibes to us both. I work best in the mornings so if you ever fancy a virtual shut up and write session then our time zones would probably align nicely.

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    • heidirgardner

      ‘Daunting and final’ – that’s exactly it! I’ve found that setting up a space at home has also helped a lot with avoiding procrastination. I’ve perfected the space, it’s got everything I need and no more, which means there’s no point in faffing about adding stuff to it.
      We’ll get there Karen! The end of this week has been a lot better than the beginning, starting to make some decent progress with the chapter I’m working on so it feels like I’ve made a bit of a breakthrough. A virtual shut up and write session sounds great too – once you’re settled and ready to get your teeth into the thesis give me a shout 🙂
      Also I meant to ask you, have you confirmed for SCT? I think there’s a few of us joining from Aberdeen; I’ve got an oral presentation accepted, and I’m part of 2 workshops too, so hopefully the trial design camp will have a good presence!

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  2. Karen Bracken

    I’ve been accepted for an oral presentation too. Very exciting! Looks like I’m the only one going from my organisation though so I’ll be very happy to see a friendly face. Can you dm re your workshops as I’d be interested to attend? The ones I saw on the sct website were all stats focused and I’m trying to sort out whether to attend Sunday or not before I apply for a travel scholarship.
    I’m working on my systematic review draft over the next couple of weeks so let’s SUAW soon.

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