Blog by Bhaso Ndzendze
Tips on creating and maintaining writing momentum – 14 May 2021 (based on talk to PSF on 13 May 2021)
“Infinity achieved through finite stages loses its terrors and temptations.” – Henry A. Kissinger (A World Restored)
•Momentum: constant work towards your end goal (your MA or PhD thesis) at planned increments and at a desired pace.
•No need to rush, or do your thesis under an unreasonable timeline; but you want momentum to achieve your goal within your determined timeline.
•Problem is when you’re under-performing regarding your own timeframe.
Types of procrastinators I’ve seen:
- The perpetual reader
- The “right environment” anticipator.
- The logistics procrastinator (“I need my interviews first,” “I don’t have the right equipment”)
- “I’m blocking my topic” mentality.
- The faux worker/the Ghost writer
- Anything but write procrastinator
Knowing the finish line
• Have an idea of what your thesis looks like when it is completed so that you know what stage you’re in.
• My theses always had questions which could be answered with a straightforward YES or NO (quantitative and qualitative).
• The supervision mechanism – proposal, chapters, submission. Make strategic use of your supervisor.
• Don’t expect perfect feedback. Strive for it (through your supervisor). But don’t be cowered by it to the point of inaction.
• E-mail yourself: no mechanism for keeping tabs (can’t update your supervisor on every little step, can’t use friendships for these purposes – in any case, written not to be read, but for you to write and reflect and identify next steps – email puts us on our ‘best behaviour’).
• Work: Wake up early and work, every day.
• This makes it clear that you’re not going to work on certain days or when specific conditions are met.
• EVERYDAY: Momentum is not a feeling, it’s a process. It’s a pattern of action.
• Prepare, prepare, prepare: be specific on what to do next; recite your RQ before getting started to filter out ‘noise’ or filter the fascinating from the relevant; consider writing something else (journal articles, op-eds, blog, personal journal).
• Keep busy; focuses your time; you’re more likely to be productive when you’re busy with other projects than when you’re “free” – don’t encroach on your PhD writing time, and that’s why it must be on a specific time every day.
• Parallel productivity – post-PhD/MA prospects; work mode all the time. Filter out predatory journals.
• The problem of “free time” is the illusion of maximum productivity throughout those hours – but your mind needs variety.
• Take care of your mental well-being (a thesis is intensive work), relax and refresh in a structured manner.