Writing Your Dissertation: Setting a Daily Dissertation Schedule

Do not underestimate how much time it will take to write your dissertation. Many graduate students spend much of their valuable time researching and collecting data and put off the arduous task of writing about what they’ve done until the last minute. These students inevitably scramble to synthesize thoughts and ideas on paper, making (what is to most) the already stressful process of writing even more difficult than it has to be because of time constraints. You can avoid the last-minute pressures of writing your dissertation if you set realistic daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly deadlines for yourself in the form of a dissertation schedule. However, you will be the most prepared when it comes time to submit your dissertation to your committee if you commit to keep your dissertation plan in mind every day. The following are things to consider when setting a daily dissertation schedule:

Designate a dissertation buddy to whom you can report your progress every day. There are dissertation boot camps, write-ins, and various other writing gatherings to support graduate students during the writing process. However, most of these groups meet for infrequent periods of time (i.e., once a week or only for a limited time); if you only worked on your dissertation at these groups, even at multiple groups at a time, you may never finish your dissertation. Make yourself more accountable for you dissertation writing on a daily basis by selecting a single individual, perhaps a fellow graduate student, to whom you can quickly report your writing progress every day.

Set a regular daily dissertation schedule for yourself, accounting for class time and personal time (i.e., going to dinner with friends, taking a nap, doing yoga, and relaxing in front of the TV), and stick to it. It may seem extreme to be so rigid with time, but every minute of the day counts when you are in graduate school and when you have so many responsibilities to balance. Amid all your responsibilities, choose a specific block of time for each day that you will dedicate specifically to writing your dissertation. When choosing your daily dissertation schedule, consider what time of day you are most productive (i.e., morning or evening). Also, remember to schedule occasional days off; this will help you recharge your writing battery and be better able to review what you have already written.

Choose a productive writing space. If you know that you cannot productively write from home because pets, children, other household members, or TV shows will distract you, then don’t work from home. Go anywhere—a coffee shop, a library, your dissertation buddy’s house—where you can find an electrical outlet, good internet connection, and anything else you deem is necessary to facilitate your daily writing. However, before you can definitively select a productive daily writing space, you must also consider how you like to write: Are you more productive when you sit and write for long continuous periods of time, or do you prefer to write a little and then move around and ponder? Do you like to work with background noise, or is absolute silence what you need to write your best? The ultimate goal is to select a location where you can consistently go to feel absolutely comfortable writing during your daily dissertation schedule.

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