Today has been an unproductive day as far as writing my thesis goes.


Some days I feel like I just can’t get going, no matter how hard I try to concentrate on the day’s tasks. Sometimes the full procrastinatory potential of the Internet becomes too much to escape, and a whole morning or afternoon is wasted on checking emails that don’t matter, and perhaps writing something in this blog.

I feel unimaginably irritated at how I can suddenly start typing away here when I have spent the preceding 6 hours of my day in a staring contest with a blank Word document.

My strategy for writing is one I’ve used on smaller-scale projects in the past – I assemble the skeleton first, which consists of the chapter titles and the subsections of each chapter, and then I add the muscles, flesh, etc., which is the content. I’ve found that in a massive document like a thesis, this flesh-on-bones approach stops me from getting lost in the chaos of words, arguments, tables and references that span pages on end. And that’s really important for people who, like me, have good ideas but often can’t express them well because they lose their way waffling or going into insanely minute threads of detail.

I like detail.

For me there has always been a difference between actual and perceived productivity. I have little sense of actual productivity – that’s an evaluation of the actual work I produce in a given time period – and it’s something I get mainly from my supervisors, who generally perceive me to be flying ahead at some supersonically accelerated speed. I’m not so sure. Because although others see me as being amazingly productive, I don’t feel that way – I don’t perceive that I am as productive as I seem – instead I feel like in order to produce that work that impresses others so much I have to toil away fruitlessly for so much longer than I need to. And that’s because I have these spells where I want to write and I can’t, because the whiteness of the blank screen in front of me is blinding.

Today has been a really unproductive day. My thesis is probably about 0.000000000001% closer to being finished than it was yesterday. That’s definitely not statistically significant!

Skeleton. Muscle. Flesh. Etc.

I have to get this done before the madness of the final round of data collection falls on me in September.

This is the moment where something inside me hardens and this strong sense of finality comes over me. I stretch, raise an eyebrow, and sit up straight. I crack my knuckles and look down at the blackness of the keyboard.

It’s time to finish this.