- CHASE Essentials training
- Zotero (referencing software)
- Zotero training course
- Scrivener (writing software)
- AI transcription tools
- LinkedIn Learning
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” When we’re desperate to finish something, we seldom pause to reflect on whether we’re going about it in the right way. There might be a better solution, but we haven’t got time to find it. I’ll just swing away with this blunt axe and hope for the best.
Sometimes, we need to slow down before we can accelerate.
If you’re using the 12-week sprint system that I outlined earlier, use the thirteenth week as a review point. That way, you’re not carrying any unhelpful habits into the next sprint.
You can ask yourself questions such as:
- How much did I achieve this week?
- Was it in line with what I hoped?
- If yes, what made it a productive week?
- Could I recreate these conditions?
- If no, what went wrong?
- Were there problems I could’ve anticipated and prevented?
- What could I do differently next week?
And look at where you are on your overall plan. Roughly on target? Sailing ahead? Or languishing behind? If you’re struggling, you can consider:
- What’s slowing me down?
- Am I striving for perfection?
- Or trying to do too much?
- Is my timescale simply not realistic?
- Is there anything else I can stop doing to make more time for my thesis? At least temporarily.
Do some calculations, too. How many useful words can you write in half an hour? How many do you need? Of course, this is a rough calculation, but it gives you an idea. It stops you from setting yourself punishing targets. Once you know that your personal best is 500 words a day, it’s hopeless to routinely aim for 1,000. This helps you come up with a more realistic plan.
Perhaps there’s software that could help you, too. We can get stuck in inefficient ways of working that have a big impact on our outcomes. Spending a day learning a new piece of software like Zotero for bibliographic referencing or Scrivener for writing could shave weeks or even months off your completion time. If you’re transcribing or translating interviews, an AI tool will make a huge difference. Ask around in your community to find out what everyone else is using. What do they like about those tools? And what are the annoying bits? You don’t want to waste time learning something that’s not going to bring any benefits. There might also be some training available at your university or on online portals, such as Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning.
Optimising your working methods helps you finish your PhD and it’ll also help in your future career. This is a great investment of your time.