With my professors and me deciding on a deadline for my thesis I realized that I needed a better strategy. Hell, I need to become a thesis ninja asap otherwise I won’t survive this! So I started thinking how I could help myself to get through the last bits of my thesis process as pain-free as possible. Though I like working with my weekly todo list on the blog, I did notice that I was feeling a bit drifty. Of course I could finish my todo, but I never know when I will be done, if I am still on track, and what needs to get priority. So, over the last two weeks I came up with some tools:
- some rules
- a planning
- a reward system
1. How to be a thesis ninja: make some rules
I figured that I had to set myself some rules to keep my sanity. Of course, it is important to work hard, but there are other things to life as well. And I certainly do not want to end up with a burnout. So, here are the rules I set up for myself. I wrote them on a piece of paper and keep them where I can see them.
- Work hard, rest hard. It is ok for me to work very hard, as long as I take my rest very seriously as well. This also means I should not mix the two up by doing so-called relaxing activities in the middle of my work. Keep the two separated.
- Relax time is a rule-free zone. To continue on the previous point a bit; once I have my free time I do not have any rules. This is the reason I kicked my personal projects off my todo list. I like sewing and I don’t want to be doing it because it is on my list. It doesn’t matter if I sew or if I doze off in front of the TV. I have a very busy schedule and it would too much to have all kinds of projects I ‘have’ to finish. Of course I will work on projects but I am not going to feel forced to do so.
- Keep the house clean & neat. I had to make this a rule because it is important to me. I can live for a little while with the house being trashed, but eventually it drives me crazy and causes me lots of stress. Not to mention that it takes way longer to do things if stuff is not in the place it should be.
- Stay active. It gives me the energy and relaxation I need, makes me happy and allows me to eat what I want (good thing I love eating healthy).
- Invest in your loved ones. After having worked all week and done all the other stuff I am supposed to do, I am pretty much beat. But even though I want to go hibernate and enjoy me free time resting, I should not forget about my loved ones. This means that I will contact a friend every so often, visit my family, and help them if they need something.
- Make time for yourself. On the other hand I should not forget to make time for myself without feeling guilty. It is ok to say no and it is also ok to spend an entire afternoon playing beautyfarm: taking showers, painting toenails, reading trashy magazines, etcetera.
- Go outside. I know it may be winter but I need fresh air and I need to be in nature. It makes me feel good. It always does.
- Live your life instead of dreaming about it. This is an important one. I really like self-development and am always trying to improve myself. I like to read about interesting things I might do some day, make plans for the future, etc. But time is passing by fast, especially with my working hours, so I need to pay attention to enjoy things as much as I can. Even my thesis, it is a once in a lifetime project and soon it will be over. Also, being content with what you have instead of dreaming about all you want to become, is very stress relieving.
- Efficiency is key. Try to do things as efficient as possible. Delegate household chores, batch things. Good is good enough. Let go of unnecessary things. I love organizing and I going to apply my ‘organizedness’ to get stuff done quickly. I already have a system to make the household run smooth. I unsubscribed from the majority of newsletters and feeds because at this point in time they are not worth my limited time and energy. Yes, they are fun but I can’t have everything and sometimes you have to choose.
- Balance is everything. The overarching theme to this rules is represented in this last rule. It is all about balance. Of course in the upcoming time my work is going to consume a lot of me and that is okay, but I have to make sure it doesn’t get all of me. There are other things that are important as well.
2. How to be a thesis ninja: Make a planning
I have a deadline now, and that deadline is pretty close. Next to feeling totally freaked out by it, I am also using it to my advantage. I have made planning to which I have got to stick if I want to meet the deadline. So at the moment it is very clear to me what I have to finish each week. This brings me to my next point:
3. How to be a thesis ninja: Set up a reward system
I have been working with plannings a lot, but I find that if I am really not motivated I throw it out of the window or I reschedule it even tighter so I can fit in my procrastination for that week. But I don’t really have time for procrastination anymore, no matter how much fun it might be. Therefore, I came up with a reward system that should trick me into doing what I am supposed to do. Actually, it is a reward and punishment system. Every week, when I finish what I need to, I receive a reward. This is an activity that I don’t do so much, or a small item that I would like to have. It might be a magazine, a trip to the fabric market, or a cappuccino somewhere. I get my reward in the week after and I cannot save up, because then I am still waiting for a long-term reward and that is useless because the long-term reward is finishing the damn book! So, what happens if I don’t meet my weekly deadlines? My punishment is that I get grounded. I can only go to my Body Balance class and that is it. No Zumba, no swimming with my friend, no other social get togethers. I need the threat of punishment because if I just miss out on the rewards my life would remain sort of the same and for me that is not motivating. I have to feel like I lost something if I don’t do my job, so I work hard to avoid that. And then at the end of the week I get a reward for my hard work so I keep my motivation. Just avoiding dreaded things is not making me happy.
So, what do you do to finish a major project when it is overwhelming and you have trouble feeling motivated?