All postgrads sigh a breath of relief once exams are over. No more classes. No more setting up an alarm and you may sleep as much as you can until you wake up naturally. Although that might sound quite ideal, but the dissertation is not a piece of cake.
The idea of travelling around the UK, going back home, or visiting a friend somewhere in the EU might look very ideal at this time while there are no lectures or assignments to worry about. However, those on a close target of a 12-weeks submission should err on the side of caution. It is wise to let your supervisor know if you already have any such plans before he schedules a meeting with you on a date when you wouldn’t be able to see them. This puts an overall negative impact on the quality of work and your professionalism. Don’t even think that your supervisor won’t know if you could escape for a week without him noticing. Your lack of progress will reflect your absence or poor time management.
Plan any travels on weekends and work like a full 9 to 5 job during the weekdays so you stay ahead of your proposed project plan. Inform your supervisor when you are away and if possible arrange a Skype call or a telephone meeting to show that your care about your work.
Choosing a Study Space
Trust me, your home is probably the worst place to work for your dissertation if your task is desk based. Laziness creeps in like the mouse that sneaks into your kitchen cabinets at night and you never know when it takes away the piece of cheese you had been keeping all locked and tight. Your time is as valuable as that cheese block and procrastinating is so likely for someone like me who gets easily distracted, especially when it is time to work.
The problem could be that you are on your own, with minimum support from your supervisor and you need to work efficiently. Find a study space in the library. The Learning Commons are quite free these days with the undergrads gone, so make the most of it and your time. An hour of focused study is better than spending 5 hours pretending you are studying.
Keeping track of progress
It’s very simple to lose track of where your dissertation is going if you have not built a Gantt chart or other similar project plan. Starting out late, being stuck in the middle of the work could easily build up a bottleneck of work pressure at the end when you sit down to write your report. You must leave at least 3 weeks for the final write-up and spend time wisely on each stage of your plan, noting down which phase would take the most time and is most important for your thesis.
It would be best to keep a weekly meeting (or email) to update your supervisor so that he could guide you if you are slacking off. For engineering projects or lab work, this is often measurable in terms of the results obtained.
It could also be helpful to see how far other people have progressed in their projects, so you could set a benchmark if you are going too slow or have the right pace.