Writing a Ph.D. thesis isn’t easy. Things don’t get any better with the research too. But when procrastination gets in the way, everything may fall apart.
The point here is not only to survive your Ph.D., but to build the foundation of your scientific career before it has officially begun. That means you need to be good at time management, get things done quickly, and find the balance between work, life and study. In other words, you need to hack productivity. And the best way to do that is to eliminate the things that prevent you from being productive and staying focused.
4 Distractions Every Ph.D. Student Has to Deal With
Distractions are the biggest productivity killers. And they come in many forms. Here are the main ones and what you can do to eliminate each:
1. Too much noise in the background.
Often that’s not up to you. You may not have the chance to sit in silence at your place and enjoy and distraction-free study environment. And that’s alright. In this case, you can go find a better place that suits your needs. Be it the library, or any coffee shop that’s peaceful enough for you to be focused for hours and complete your work successfully.
2. People bothering you all the time.
Productive work is all about being concentrated on the current task and letting go of everything else. But if someone’s always coming in the room while you’re in the zone, or if others keep calling and texting you all the time, you won’t be able to do your best.
The solution here is simple. Be direct. Let them know you’re serious about becoming a good scientist one day and are now dedicating time daily to get closer to your goal. Figure out when you’re most productive during the day and which hours you’ll invest in focused work, and tell people not to bother you during that time if it’s nothing urgent.
3. Social media and other Internet distractions.
It would be great if you could just unplug and be laser focused until you get your Ph.D. done. But most of your work is online, and there are plenty of distractions in the digital world, too. You may spend too much time on social media and mobile apps, or have the bad habit of browsing the Net for hours without looking for anything in particular. Some prefer to watch meaningless videos, check email too often, or else.
All that wastes your precious time. So, set some limits. Get a software that blocks your access to the Internet for a start. It will help you when you need to get to writing, for instance.
4. Fear of failure.
That too distracts us and makes us procrastinate all the time.
Many students feel afraid of not getting things done well, or in time, or else. They think about other works they’ve seen recently and think they can’t create anything like that. As a result, they start playing negative scenarios in their heads, imagining how others won’t like their work, and how that can ruin their whole career plan.
But all that is just in your head, if you too are going through such uncertainty. Fear of failure is an illusion and you’ll need to let go of it and get to work instead. Or try the opposite. Visualize yourself doing great, being respected for your work, becoming a successful scientist.
Now that you can easily detect the main types of distractions and focus more easily, it’s time to boost your productivity more. Here are some things to keep in mind:
4 Productivity Tips and Tricks
1. Know your why.
Every time you do research, complete an assignment, or write a thesis, you have the chance to do it mindfully and even enjoy the process if you develop the right mindset. That can easily happen by knowing why you do what you do and keeping it in mind until you complete it. Every single task you finish gets you one step closer to becoming a scientist. Everything you read expands your horizons and becomes a powerful asset in the future.
2. Break big projects into smaller ones.
The big picture is scary most of the time. But every huge project consists of small steps to take. So, define them. Write them down. Then turn them into even smaller ones until you get to one action you can start with right now that will take less than 5 minutes. This way you won’t procrastinate or fear failure as this one step will be easy and simple.
What’s more, it will give you a sense of accomplishment and will motivate you to move to the next item on the list.
3. Be organized.
Have a place for everything, and get it back there after you’ve used it. This one single habit can save you a lot of time and worries. Also, have a to-do list. Write down everything that needs to be done the moment it comes up. This way you won’t need to remember every little detail and will always know what’s left to be done. Last but not least, declutter. Keep your workspace organized. Have less belongings and get rid of anything you don’t really use.
Sometimes there will be way too much stuff to get done. And our time is limited. Therefore, you’ll need to be selective if you want to keep seeing progress. Once you’ve defined your most productive time, for instance, make sure you dedicate it to nothing else but studying. And when you create your to-do list, decide what’s most important and put it on top. Then, work on it first thing in the morning.
So that’s how you hack productivity and start getting more done in less time. All the rules are simple, but you’ll need to build the productivity habits mentioned here and stick to them.
What about you? What other distractions get in the way of your productivity and how do you deal with them?