Wondering how you can write a thesis fast? You come to the right place
HOW TO WRITE A THESIS FAST
Back in 2015, I begin my postgraduate as a PhD student in one of the institutions in my country, thinking my research finding will make a difference to the world (it’s not).
The beginning was fun and I’m learning a bunch of new stuff.
Then after a few years, families and friends begin to ask when I am going to graduate or when I am going to start working, things get quite stressful, and man, I just want to finish everything including writing the thesis faster.
When my final objective of the study is achieved, I have decided that I need to write my thesis faster, in a span of 3 months.
The deadline I set for myself is mainly due to the scholarship requirement: Need to submit in the last semester.
The main issue was, I am not a good writer. And now, I need to write everything, what I found, what I didn’t find, and all about it in my thesis.
And I have to write it fast.
*Ugly cry in silence*
For those with similar experiences, you probably can imagine how stressful and depressive the thesis writing episode was.
Especially if you are short of time.
I mean, I am not going to lie, but I did ugly cry a few times questioning what I am doing with my life as I write my thesis.
But hey, I did it. I know it is not perfect, but at least I complete it soon thAn I expect it to be (maybe crying does help).
and the main thing that helped me write the thesis faster is how I manage time.
I know it’s lame and you’re probably going to click away, but trust me, by managing my time well during this period, I am able to write my whole thesis faster and keep my sanity intact.
So here are my top 5-time management hacks that help me write a thesis faster and completed my PhD thesis writing in *3 months.
I have arranged the 5 tips that you can try for weeks, days, and minutes.
(The 3 months duration is solely for writing as I have analyzed a few of my results. So, if you need to analyze the result first, it might take longer than 3months, but the time management tips are still applicable)
Let’s dive right in
1. Time Blocking
Time blocking is the practice of setting a certain fixed amount of time for each task and integrating it into your schedule.
You are blocking out the event and what exactly you want to do. By doing this, you can prioritize and gets a lot more done.
Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, has shared the best method to do the time blocking.
He recommends a big-picture plan by setting an overview plan quarterly, weekly, and daily.
Slot in the important task or event so that you can anticipate roughly the completion of a certain project.
Prioritize and block the time to do deep work daily.
For me, my ability to focus and my energy level are more in the morning. So, I will schedule more deep work in the morning and do editing, and paraphrasing in the afternoon.
So even despite my low energy level, I can keep my thesis writing process progressing.
Certain people say that having this predetermined plan like time blocking will cause less unstructured free time, making us more robotic and less freedom in our lives.
But, is it true, though?
If you think about it, by completing a more important task, we are allowing more freedom to do other things that that is less important but still fulfilling to ourselves.
Say, for example going hiking or hanging out with your friends. By being disciplined and sticking with the plan, we can give more freedom in our time for our future selves.
“Discipline equal freedom.”Jocko Wallink, Former Navy Seal Commander
The time blocking will help us in preplanning the process of thesis writing, which indirectly helps us see the direction of overall thesis progress.
I will also slot in the time to meet my supervisor in the planner, so we can meet and discuss.
This helps me brainstorm ideas and discuss what I am going to write so it will help my writing process to be done smoothly.
Another figure who is fond of this time-blocking technique is Elon Musk.
I couldn’t find the granular details of his daily life activities, but his assistant claimed his schedule included a daily planner that was broken into a 5-minute slot.
But you don’t have to go to that extent.
Overplanning is one of the mistakes that people (other than Elon Musk) tend to do leading to feeling overwhelmed and ending up burned out.
Time blocking just needs a few simple steps:
- List down all the tasks and important events of the month. To be specific you can write down the chapter, the topic, or the subtopic of the thesis you need to write for that week or month.
- Fill the task into a weekly and daily calendar. You can use google calendar and colour code the task.
- Spare a few hours each day just in case you enter the flow state and require more time to write a certain part.
- Review every week to see whether you can stick to what you have a plan or not. If yes, maybe can optimize by adding another subtopic or editing task. If not, find the root cause. Is it because of a lack of discipline or do you plan too much?
If doing it right, time blocking can be the most powerful tool for the completion of any given task. Up until this point in time, I still stick to using this time-blocking technique to plan out my life.
2. Organize The Task And Prioritize The Most Important Task First
Prioritizing tasks is crucial so the abundance of tasks can be completed as per plan.
For thesis writing, the task can be the subtopic of the discussion or the introduction chapter whatever you have decided to work on for that week.
What you need to do now is to identify which is the most important, which most probably could give a clearer idea of what to write on the next paragraph or subtopic.
There are 2 methods ways to prioritize: By Eat that frog or Eisenhower’s Matrix.
Eat that frog
Eat that frog is a book written by Brian Tracy on the time management system.
It is to organize the task and tackle the most difficult one first. The frog refers to the ugliest, worst, and most difficult task. By handling the ‘frog’ the positive impact of other tasks will follow.
So how can we identify this ‘frog’?
By the ABCDE method
First, list down everything you need to do. Write it down on a piece of paper
Then you label it with ABCDE. And the rule is you never jump to do the B task before you completed the A.
- A-very important: You’ll face serious consequences if not completed it
- B-should do & mild consequences: ‘Tadpole’ of the work-life. You still need to do, but priority is still given to A
- C-nice to do & no consequences and if not done, it will not affect you at all
- D-Can delegate: Things that other people can do
- E-Eliminate all together: no longer important
This method allows us to think critically about what is most important and prioritize the task.
The priority will be given to the ‘frog’ so that the rest of the task seems easier and will be done smoothly. It also gives a sense of confidence that we can do it.
Eisenhower Method or Eisenhower Matrix
Dwight Eisenhower is the 34th President of the United States from 1953-1961. His achievement as president includes establishing NASA, ending the Korean war and introducing the Interstate Highway System to name a few.
Short to say, this man has a lot on his plate, and prioritizing tasks is crucial.
“I have 2 kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.” –David Eisenhower, 1954
30 years later, Stephen Cover repackaged Eisenhower’s insight in his best-selling book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
In this book, Cover added to additional remarks from Eisenhower’s original idea and make it a simple tool for time management with 4 quadrants.
The concept is quite similar to Brian Tracy’s ABCDE methods.
1st quadrant: Important and urgent -> need to act immediately, visible dateline with consequences -> crisis mode response
2nd quadrant: important but not urgent -> schedule -> to achieve the long-term target
3rd quadrant: not important, urgent -> busy work -> delegate
4th quadrant: not important, not urgent -> delete
So, by implementing either one of these time management techniques, we can be more effective and efficient.
3. The ‘2 days rule’
Now as we have the list of tasks to be completed for a week, it is time for the execution. It’s time to write the thesis.
But sometimes, us being humans we tend not to do it even though we know that we need to do it.
There’s one of those days that you think that no, not today. I’m not doing it today.
Same my friend.
Writing is boring and difficult.
Especially as you analysed your result you know that some of your findings are not very significant and have not added much novelty to the current finding.
Or even worst, you have that writer’s mental block where suddenly you don’t know what to do or what to write.
Maybe you can have a break from writing but don’t let it be more than 2 days.
Although it sounds simple, it will help us form a consistent habit in a long run.
It’s simple but it works.
When we are stuck, especially when it comes to writing a thesis, no amount of willpower will help us at that time.
Rather than tighten the grip, learn to let it go for a while and come back to it much stronger and better.
Maybe it’s our body signalling us that they need to take a break. And most of the time, you will find that writing and the idea flow easily after you come back from a break.
Try to make it visible by using a calendar to mark the current progress with how many times you have taken the break, so you don’t overindulge it.
If you don’t need the break, just continue as you have planned. It is not compulsory, but if needed, make it only for 2 days (or less), top.
4. Pomodoro technique
My favourite out of all. If I must pick one, this is it. The Pomodoro technique was introduced by Francesco Cirillo circa 1990 as a time management tool.
Pomodoro is a tomato in Italians, as Francesco uses the tomato shape timer.
This technique is simple. Chomping the large task and breaking it into short time intervals.
The original Pomodoro is 25 minutes of active work with 5 minutes break. Once the break is over, the timer will start again for 25 minutes.
The cycle usually lasts about 4-6 times before we get the long break about 20-30 minutes
But sometimes when I feel the flow of ideas during writing, I will stop the timer at 40 minutes and allow myself to rest for 10 minutes. But for most of the time, I will stick to the 25/5 min intervals.
During these 25 minutes, turn off all notifications or maybe set the phone to do not disturb or flight mode. This will minimize the number of distractions that possibly appear during the session.
That is why I used the desktop version of the timer, as I can get notified about the timing easily. Since I know no self-control, I prefer to switch off my phone until I completed 4-6 Pomodoro cycles.
Or you can use one of those manual timers and place it on your desk, so you can place the phone far away as possible.
The only issue with the Pomodoro technique is the tendency to overuse the break time.
The 5 minutes break sometimes get stretched out to 30 min, or worst, hours when the break time is utilized to play games or scroll social media.
That is why it’s best to avoid any screen-related activities during break time.
Use the break time to go to the washroom, do simple stretching, refill the cups of water, or anything that doesn’t involve the screen.
What if something urgent comes up?
Let’s be real, usually, most of the time there’s nothing urgent happening or need our immediate attention. But if let’s say things come up, Francesco has come out with the call-back strategy.
It’s just informing the person what we are currently up to, then trying to negotiate with what they need and try to call back or return to them once the long Pomodoro cycles are completed.
For someone with the attention span of a goldfish like me, this technique helps me every single time.
5. The ‘5-minute rule’
Sometimes despite the planning, we still dread ourselves doing it. The friction is inevitable.
The solution to that is just to tell yourself that you just need to do the task for only 5 minutes, and you’re done. And that is the 5-minute rule.
Doing things that are enormous and complicated like writing a thesis or analysing the data require great effort.
So even by only thinking about it, it sort of makes us feel uncomfortable. How do we face uncomfortable situations? We avoid it. That’s what happens.
We avoid it because it’s difficult.
So, if we lower the stakes, it doesn’t feel like a threat as much. By making things simple and easier we will not feel resistance as much.
Just work small on a specific task with 100% effort but for only 5 minutes. Set the timer for 5 minutes and when the time is up. Just stop writing or whatever task you are intended to do.
I know the 5 minute is not much, but the idea of just keep pushing consistently show the commitment to self.
Most of the time, as the 5 minutes passed, the tendency to just keep going is very strong. So, from not wanting to do anything, you will end up writing the whole paragraph.
I feel like I’m winning against my lazy self every time I use this technique because most of the time, I will stay longer than 5 minutes.
It will start off thinking the 5 minutes is just for editing the format. Then I read the paragraph, it seems a bit off and needs paraphrasing, then some idea flows in for the next sentence, and it continues like that and before I know it, I spend 30 minutes on my thesis.
Just need 5-minute to get it done.
So there you go, my top 5 time management hacks that help me complete writing my thesis in 3 months. To be honest, the duration or how long you spend on writing a thesis is not important.
If you need d longer time and you want to savour writing slowly, is fine.
But to make a consistent effort in writing, time management will help with the progress,
Write thesis Fast; Back to you
Look back at how you come so far in your progress. How many words. How many drafts you have created? All this is laboured by your consistent effort in managing your time
So, which time management tips are your favourite?