A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
There are so many good guides online for tips on how to successfully finish a thesis, and as I’m actually still in the process I can’t offer much more useful advice. I can, however, give you some insight into the kinds of things I have found helpful. Bear in mind that this is a very personal list, but I hope some of the points at least will be helpful to someone!
1. Early on in the year, book a holiday for mid-July, so you have a solid deadline to work towards and you actually get to enjoy the summer. This is definitely more carrot than stick, but sometimes a little positive motivation and a great reward at the end is exactly what’s needed.
2. Make deals with your friends. I really liked the way Eric, Yuri and Robyn organised themselves and helped motivate each other (peer pressure plus threat of having to pay for beers is a winning combination for thesis completion!) Some friends from my course and I met (almost) weekly in the last semester, to talk about how far along we were, what our problems were and what our schedule was for the next week. Having to talk about your thesis process is a good chance to practice speaking about your ideas, and making a concrete plan for the next week (say, be able to show a draft of Chapter 1 finished by Friday) is so useful!
3. Write a blog. I really recommend it! It’s a really good exercise in learning to write regularly, in different styles, for a critical audience, and helps you get used to self-editing your work.
4. Set aside one day a week, or even one afternoon, which is strictly ‘no work.’ For me, this is Saturday, when I have a non-work routine of gym, market, eating something really yummy, reading (non-academic) in the afternoon and maybe a watching movie at night. After a relaxing day I have a much a clearer head, and new ideas emerge.
5. Make regular appointments for the evenings: dinner with friends, Skyping with family, walking your neighbour’s dog, meeting your classmates for a drink. With a fixed appointment only a few hours away, I find that I have to get on with my work, instead of spending an extra 2 hours staring at my computer screen but not actually doing anything…
6. Join a gym or take up a sport, so that you get a chance once in a while to stretch out your back after hours hunched over your computer.
7. Feeling stressed with thesis overload? Watch this video:
8. Importantly, keep up social obligations! Even if you have managed to avoid becoming a hermit, it is still really good to keep reminding yourself to get out and talk about things other than study. This self-discipline can be a bit tough, but as much as I want to be proud of my thesis, I also want to be able to look back in a few years and feel happy that I made the most of this time with my friends too.