Question: I’m a PhD student currently writing my thesis. I mostly work from home, where it can be very distracting. Working at the library is helpful for home distractions, but it still leaves me uninspired. Where can I find PhD help, and how can I get more work completed on my thesis, when I feel distracted or uninspired?
Answer: As a full time PhD supervisor, I cannot tell you how often students have issues with concentration and inspiration. It can be especially difficult for PhD students with families at home to work on a thesis with the additional responsibilities to deal with. If you are finding yourself in a bit of a rut in your writing, you should consider taking a writing retreat.
What is a writing retreat and what PhD help is on offer?
A writing retreat is simply a short getaway in which you work solely on your thesis writing without distraction. You can take more formalised writing retreats with a group of other students, or you can just go somewhere by yourself. The goal is to be anywhere but your home so that you can fully dedicate yourself to working only on your writing. Being outside of your normal environment and away from your usual distractions can allow you to put your head down and finish a significant portion of your thesis.
Are There Scientific Benefits to Writing Retreats?
Aside from the fact that getting away to focus on your thesis writing can be refreshing, there is some actual scientific evidence that proves that taking a writing retreat can be beneficial. According to this article in Scientific American, getting outside of your regular work zone creates physiological distance. This can help foster creativity by affecting the way we represent things mentally. Under the same theory, distance creates things that are abstract while things that are psychologically close are more concrete.
How Long Should the Retreat Be?
If you have decided to go on a writing retreat, one of the first things to decide is where you want to go. The distance away will be dependent on a variety of factors: how long can you afford to be away? Will you only be able to leave on the weekend, or can you stay for longer periods of time? For many PhD students, a three-day weekend is a good amount of time to get a large chunk of their writing done. Taking this bit of time may just give you that inspiration you need to help you get into a better writing schedule once you return home.
Tips For Your Retreat
- Set a writing schedule and stick to it. Aim for a certain word or page count per day, depending on which section of your thesis you will be focusing on.
- Have everything you will need to avoid any interruptions. Have all of your notes, research materials, and anything else pertaining to writing a PhD thesis. Also make sure you have your laptop charger and a small printer if you need to see hard copies of your thesis during editing.
- Schedule some breaks. The whole point is to get away and get refreshed so you are more motivated to write. If you do not take some breaks in your writing sessions, you could very likely burn out. Try to take a short break after each hour for about ten minutes for a stretch. Every few hours, consider taking a walk around the location in which you will be staying.
- Do not forget to eat. While you are on your retreat, try not to get so engrossed in your work that you forget to nourish your body. Take meal and snack breaks as necessary. Also, be sure you are fully hydrated. Keep a bottle of water or cup of tea nearby to help you to remember to drink.
By taking a writing retreat and making time to focus solely on your PhD thesis, you will find yourself focused, mentally recharged, and ready to tackle any work that comes your way!
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