Spring is in the air, lambs are gambolling, buds are blossoming, songbirds are warbling and dissertation deadlines are looming. The constant nag of “ought to do some of my dissertation this weekend” has been following you around like a nasty smell since October.
So, dissertations are far too important to waste time trying to re-invent the wheel. Instead, here are some life hacks to propel you straight into the jet age:
You may have put together some paragraphs, knocked together an introduction, have a rough idea of what your arguments are going to be. But if you’re stuck and bored with it already, put that all to one side and start again. What you’ve done before may have been done half-heartedly and with uncertainty. Don’t try to build on bad foundations.
Buy a whiteboard
Start storyboarding your dissertation. Your dissertation will take the reader on a journey, just like a film. Picture in your mind how you want that journey to look, and draw it down. Only by visualising it can you create a reasonable but creative plan.
Watch a documentary
Let’s face it, TV’s much more fun than writing a dissertation or reading a piece of nonfiction. So, find a documentary even vaguely related to your topic, buy some popcorn and watch it. It will reignite your passion for the subject, you’ll see it being brought to life, and you might even get a few ideas.
Turn books into treasure hunts
Insert small snacks into pages of your books. They’re your reward for slogging through long passages.
One Pound Sterling for every hour that you work on your dissertation. It may not seem like much, but it’s a physical marker of the progress you’re making which is vital for motivation. Then, when you hand in your dissertation, you can take your fistfuls of pound coins and treat yourself.
There’s an app for that
Lots of apps exist for planning and organising, and you’ll use them in the workplace too. Check out apps like Trello for basic organising. However, there are also apps like SelfControl, which actually block sites like Facebook for certain periods of time so you can’t distract yourself.
Wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff
Never tell yourself “I’ll do this by the weekend; or within 7 days”. If you haven’t said “I will do it at 5pm” then you’re already on the path to The Procrastination Dark Side. They don’t have cookies in The Procrastination Dark Side.
To focus yourself, you need to distract yourself
To concentrate your mind you have to distract your ears, your eyes, your mouth and your hands. So, here’s how to distract:
Your ears: instrumental music. The most distracting music is repetitive and vocal. Pop and rap are designed to be catchy and to rivet your attention, so never listen to them. Instead, listen to film soundtracks or a composer like Ludovico Einaudi – music with no words which are demanding your brain’s attention, no hook and no repetitive beat.
Your eyes: Studies show people are more distracted by the actions of one person, than of a crowd. It is easy to follow a person walking past, but imagine twenty walking past, you couldn’t follow them all if you tried. Your brain actually tunes out to all of them rather than focus on one. If another person joined the crowd you won’t notice because it’s a tiny change to the environment. Likewise, if you’re in a library, one person walking past is a distraction but if you’re in a café you’ll actually ignore everyone wherever they walk. Likewise with colour, bright places are less distracting than brown libraries. Therefore, try working in a colourful room, with lots of people, or if you are in a library sit next to the window so you can see colourful nature in your peripheral vision. You’ll find it’s much better than sitting in a beige library staring at a wall waiting for inspiration and losing your train of thought because one person coughed.
Your mouth: the slightest hunger pang will distract you. Drink lots to avoid niggling thirst and suppress hunger. Chew gum too to keep your mouth from thinking about food.
Your hands: they will probably be taken up with turning pages or typing, but if you’re trying to think or reading long passages, fiddle with something. Blue tack can be quite good, or something like knitting.
And finally, here are some common synonyms to improve your writing. Don’t make your dissertation over-flowery though, you’re not Wordsworth. Prose should be clean and simple, not abominably execrable discursive, replete with superfluous synoyms, corpulent metaphors, licentious litotes, or misemployed synecdoche.
Best of luck!