Oh yeah! I’m currently in the painful process of writing my Phd thesis. If you’re in this process too (or are simply in pain), then stick around. In this blog post, I provide you with a strategic plan to push through that chapter you’re stuck with so that you can move forward with the rest of your thesis (or your life). If you’re not a PhD student and never will be, or if you’re already a doctor, then keep reading as well. My bullet-proof plan can be adapted to anything you’re struggling with, be it a paper, a business plan, a project to ship, or a chapter of your book.
Note that this plan is for the lucky ones, who from time to time can work from home. For me, that’s on Mondays. You need to be alone at home, so that nobody interferes with your plan. Being alone also means you can take out of the back of your closet your favourite horrible clothes that you don’t dare to wear even when your flatmates are around. So without further ado, enjoy the strategic plan to write your PhD thesis on Mondays.
Work chunk no 1: one hour of work soon after waking up with empty stomach. That’s the least comfortable work chuck of the day. Basically you get out of bed as soon as your alarm sets off (no snoozing please!). You quickly go through your morning routine if you have one. Then you put on the above mentioned horrible clothes and you work for a whole hour. You don’t have breakfast, you don’t turn on your devices, you don’t drink coffee until the hour has passed. You can drink water, or lemon water, and a green tea with no sugar to stay lucid. It’s dark outside and there’s bitterness in your mouth. And you’re not sure whether that bitterness comes from either the green tea or the work you’re supposed to do. It’s both, my friend! Keep going, keep moving your hands, keep typing on that keyboard. Don’t stop. Keep writing that chapter of your PhD thesis you were stuck with. Soon the sun will rise again.
Break no 1: breakfast, coffee, and Instagram. Now that you’ve been thorough the first hour of work, you deserve to eat, to have that craved coffee while scrolling down your Instagram feed. That’s also the time to engage with your partner, if you have one. I’m in a long-distance relationship, so for me engagement means that I grab my phone and text him: “Have a good day!”. Done.
Work chuck no 2: one hour and six minutes of work and first laundry of the day. Don’t do your laundry over the weekend. Washing machines are your best friend when it comes to time management. If you set up the timer on your phone, you’ll still be looking at it. Instead, put your bed sheets, towels, unsexy basic white lingerie, sport t-shirts in the washing machine and run the short program (for me that’s one hour and six minutes) for cotton clothes at sixty degrees. Leave your phone next to the washing machine, press the “Start” button and head to your room to work work work work on your chapter chapter chapter! Don’t think nor feel anything! One hour goes fast. That’s basically the time of one episode of Gilmore Girls and one YouTube video on vegan minimalism, plus the six more minutes that you’ll need to recover from the shocking video. Because you’ve watched all the episodes of Gilmore Girls three times (four times the ones with Jess) and you know that the vegan minimalist videos make you feel guilty and not enough, you’d better use that hour to get some work done.
Break no 2: hanging the clothes, green tea, Google Analytics. The washing machine’s alarm sets off to tell you that it’s time to hang your clothes. Good news! Stop writing. Even though you’re in the middle of a sentence, stop writing. Keep that good flow for when you go back to it later. Shake each single item before hanging it. This is good to get rid of the worst wrinkles and tone your arms at the same time, especially with the bedsheets. At this point you really would like to brew another coffee, but the day is still long and there’s room for more coffee later on. For now, let’s settle for a second unsweetened green tea. And, to pretend that you’re not addicted to your phone and that you use it for good, check the traction that your website is gaining on Google Analytics. Despite using Google Analytics regularly, I can’t really say how well or bad Breaking Thirty is going honestly. Maybe one day I’ll write a blog post about that.
Work chunk no 3: see work chunk no 2. It’s time for washing the other clothes, those that aren’t white nor pink: jeans, dark T-shirts, blue cardigans, the remaining gym gear and… what’s that? Uh, the sexy black lingerie I wore on Thursday last week. And the sexy blue lingerie I wore on Wednesday. And the sexy black lingerie with little white flowers I wore on Tuesday! Pretty good week last week, isn’t it? With these horrible clothes I’m wearing, I can’t even recognise myself as the cool gal who wore sexy lingerie for three days in a row to go to work in a German computer science department! And who fell into a depressing pit of house clothes and PhD thesis as she approached the weekend.
Break no 3: hanging the clothes, Instagram (yes!), coffee (yes yes yes!). You really need this coffee and this Instagram scroll. Because it’s almost lunch time but not quite lunch time and you still need to put in a little chunk of work. So brew that coffee, grab your phone and just relax.
Work chunk no 4: forty minutes of work and laundry for the delicate clothes. Do you know those clothes that you’re supposed to hand wash but that you just wash with the forty-minute hand-wash-program for delicate clothes at thirty degrees and almost no spin? That’s their turn now. And… you’re tired. I know. I know! But forty minutes can pass very fast. Don’t think of that Episode 7, Season 3 of Gilmore Girls where Rory finally breaks up with Dean to be together with Jess at the dance marathon that you could watch right now. Choose the right thing instead. The right thing that Rory would have done: get that chapter of your thesis done!
Lunch break while listening to a podcast about complicated stuff. Morning is over and you can enjoy lunch now. While you cook and eat, I recommend you to somewhat keep your brain on. For example, listen to a podcast about something you are interested in, which is difficult for you to take action on. For me, that means listening to podcasts about how grow this blog. I learn about Facebook Ads, Google SEO, Insta stories, list building, copywriting, pitching, guest posting, viral content etc. There’s so much stuff to know about how Breaking Thirty can reach more people… And I feel so overwhelmed afterwards that I realise that getting that chapter of you PhD thesis done in the morning was not a big deal after all.
Congratulations, you nailed the morning! What about the afternoon? There’s no afternoon plan. You have put in three hours and fifty-two minutes of deep work into your thesis this morning. And you know that four hours of focused work is as effective as a full eight-hour work day. Take it easy in the afternoon. Also because you know you’re gonna work anyway, especially now that you feel proud of yourself for what you have accomplished and gained momentum. Good job!
Now I would love to hear from you. How did you find the plan I just suggested? What tricks do you use to stay focused and get motivated to get work done? Let me know. Please leave a comment below and if you want to read more posts about (uncoventional) productivity hacks then subscribe to the Breaking Thirty Newsletter by using the form below.