Philippa’s blog – 10th December 2013

On Planning

I’ve written before about how I’ve been working very hard to pull together a full (and hopefully polished) draft of my PhD to send to my supervisors. I am very nearly there and am dragging myself through the last 10,000 words (1.5 chapters) so I can have an actual Christmas break, with the knowledge that I’ve completed something substantive and taken a concrete step towards submission.

In this process, the most important thing is undeniably to get some writing done as often as possible. Even on the days where I’ve felt totally uninspired or cold-ridden, I’ve been trying to write something just to keep things ticking over. At some point I decided that noting how many words I’d done every day was a way of keeping up with the habit (Picture 0227). Some other things have also helped me along the way and I’m going to write about these today.

Phillipa 1

When I drafted every chapter, I had a bit of a panic moment where I didn’t know what to start working on next, or how to go about the last checks before I could send the draft off and relax for a bit. It sounds really simple, but I put together a plan where I wrote absolutely everything that needed to be done down. That cleared my mind enough to help me work out which order I’d attack the chapters in, and also gave me the motivation of getting things done so I could tick them off the list which stares at me whenever I’m in my office.

Philippa 2
I also use my task unicorn to help me focus on the next job.

philippa 3

Amidst the long to-do lists and the mountains of paper that regularly take over my desk and the rest of my office, sometimes I struggle to clear my head and focus on the next thing that has to be done. So when I saw the generously-horned unicorn in a rather overpriced trendy shop, I thought it might just help. I write down the next job and pin it on the unicorn.

philippa 4

This is perhaps one of the signs that I’m fairly close to madness, but it actually helps me to nail down the next plan and make a concrete goal. That goal is usually a lot more specific than ‘PhD full draft’, but I’m finally at the late stages where this is a tangible prospect.
Anyway, the only way to approach any large task is to break it down, and PhDs seem to be pretty much the ultimate large task. The ways people can do this in practice are bound to vary, but these are the two that help me most. As ever, I’d better crack on with the writing now!


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