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Staying motivated on a PhD

Last Updated:

03rd June 2013

First Published:

31st May 2013

Staying motivated

Your PhD will be tough and academically challenging but also rewarding. It might not be easy, but it is important that you try to keep yourself motivated throughout your research in order to submit work that is to the highest possible standard.

Sometimes motivating yourself will prove somewhat of a challenge, but there are many ways to combat potential PhD lethargy...

 

1) A form of employment

In life, there are certain things that you just have to do. The majority of people have to get up every morning and head into the office. Sometimes people enjoy their jobs, sometimes they don’t but either way they still have to work.

You should try and think of your PhD assignment as a form of employment. There will be days when you are passionate about your 70,000 word thesis, and there will be others when even getting out of bed feels like too much effort.  On these days it is particularly important to stick with it.

Some students make a schedule for their research which outlines when they are due to start working each day and when they are due to finish. Such a routine may sound dull, but you’ll be surprised at how much of a positive impact it can have on your productivity.

 

2) Goals and ambitions

One of the most important things about a PhD is that you forward plan. You should have a rough idea in advance of what you are researching and how many hours this should take, as well as how much time should be dedicated to writing.

Once you know all of this information, you should create a to-do list for your PhD listing all of the things that you expect to do and when you plan on doing them. This will help you to view your thesis not as a huge unmanageable project, but as a series of mini projects instead!

When each task is complete, tick it off your list and you’ll physically be able to see that you’re getting things done. It’ll make you feel much better.

 

3) The ‘go-to’ guy (or girl)

It is important that you have some one supporting you who will give you a nudge in the right direction every once in a while. Whether this is your oldest school friend, your sister, a peer or even your mum, they will play a vital role in the completion of your thesis.  They will comfort you when you are stressed, they will shout at you when you’re letting your lethargy win and they will be there to celebrate with you when it is all over!

4) More carrot, less stick

It is important that every once in a while you treat yourself to stave off any negative feelings you may be having. For every milestone you achieve reward yourself with a small gift. It could be anything from a bar of chocolate, that DVD you’ve wanted for ages or a night out with friends and it will really help lift your mood.

It is hard to do, but try to avoid punishing yourself in times when you’re not doing as well as you expected, and never comparisons between your life and other people’s.

 

5) Positive attitude

Every once in a while there will be glitches with your study - it is inevitable. When these occur, look upon them not as personal failings, but as opportunities to re-evaluate and improve your approach to your research.

A PhD can be lonely as it is predominantly based on independent research. There may be a point where you struggle with studying alone, which will have a negative impact on your motivation. Remaining positive will help you combat this isolation and, although it sounds clichéd, a ‘can do’ approach can really make all the difference. 

 

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