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How to Detect and Fight Against Your Biggest Productivity Killers While Writing A Ph.D.

How to Detect and Fight Against Your Biggest Productivity Killers While Writing A Ph.D.

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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4. Prioritize.

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?

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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