The importance of focusing on your thesis when you’re aiming for your higher degree is possibly the most essential part of your life during that season. However, just because it’s a crucial time for you doesn’t mean the rest of the world stops turning. You still have as many demands as you did before, possibly even more now.
It can be difficult to focus on your thesis after you’ve already spent so much time preparing for it. Burnout is real, especially as the thesis gets more complicated. Avoiding researcher burnout and writer’s block are necessary goals, and you can use some strategies to cut back on distractions so you can focus on writing your thesis and getting this part of your life over so you can move on to the good stuff!
The Dangers of Becoming Overwhelmed as a PhD Student
Burnout is a serious problem that can occur in any high-pressure career that requires you to repeat the same tasks over and over. This problem is highly prevalent in academics. By definition, burnout is a state of ongoing stress that can go on for a long time. It shows up physically and mentally, with symptoms like fatigue, cynicism, and self-criticism, as well as the desire to give up on goals.
Research shows that those in the academic landscape who are on a path to a PhD are most likely to deal with higher pressure environments and expectations. In fact, the statistics say that over 70% of those who work in higher education or are students there admit that their stress levels are rated at high or very high.
That’s a big chunk of people who are at risk of burnout, so if you’re feeling like this is where you’re at, you should know that it’s actually common and there’s nothing “wrong” with you. However, the high numbers show that if your career is in the academic field, you must always be on the alert to the signs of burnout and actively work towards a balanced personal/work/school life.
Ways to Limit Distractions So You Can Write
When it comes to writing your thesis, it’s easy to let everything else take priority. You have this goal, but it’s flexible, and other things aren’t. But if you wait until the last second to get moving on it, you’re only hurting yourself. Instead of procrastinating, block some time each day to write for at least fifteen minutes, and switch your mindset to ignore distractions. Use these strategies to get the job done:
- Find a time management method that works for you. The Pomodoro Technique is possibly the most popular strategy used by researchers because it breaks tasks into manageable chunks. For instance, you can set your timer for twenty minutes, focus solely on the task at hand, then take a two minute break to check your phone and messages. Repeat until your goals are met.
- Try to get rid of outside distractions as much as possible. Turn your phone and TV off, find a quiet place to write where people aren’t going to bother you, and try to focus for at least half an hour a day.
- Pay attention to repeated distracting thoughts, but don’t try to solve them. Instead, write them down in a notepad or on your phone’s notes and acknowledge that you’ll work on them after you finish writing. This is often all it takes for your brain to stop bombarding you with worries.
- Turn your thesis writing time into a necessity. Currently, it’s probably an afterthought. If you have time, you’ll work on it. Make it a must-do before you go to bed that day, and you’ll be amazed how much more you get accomplished.
You need strategies that impact your environment and your mindset. One that works to fix part of the problem but not the other isn’t going to work for the long-term. These strategies will cut off distractions so you can focus on your thesis without extra stress.