26Apr2020

Writing Your Thesis in the Time of Covid-19 – Eduardo (Mexico)

Writing your thesis (and defending it) is the final and most feared step in the long road towards earning the precious title of Bachelor/Master/Doctor (how cool sounds that, right? It almost makes you think it’s worthy of everything you have done so far). Usually, it is a slow, long and demanding process filled with ups and downs, little satisfactions here and there, plus a ton of nerve-wrecking, edge-pushing situations, and don’t forget the countless, never-ending nights in the sole company of a gallon of coffee under the sad, dim light of a computer screen. If this doesn’t sound miserable enough, imagine going through it during a global pandemic that forces people to avoid human contact and isolate themselves as if, literally, your live and others were at stake. Well, that’s what most of us have to go through right now. What a time to be alive!

Pure Despair
GIF Credits: Pinterest

However, not everything is as terrible as it might sound. In my own experience, the arrival of the pandemic and the declaration of the state of emergency by the Estonian government exactly 45 days, 23 hours and 52 minutes ago *scratches another bloody mark on the wall* has resulted in a surprisingly appropriate and productive time to finally get to work on my thesis. So productive, indeed, that if everything goes as expected I will be submitting the final draft by the end of this week or even earlier. And then, I am expected to defend by the end of May. The sooner the text is ready, the sooner I can defend it. I submitted the draft for my pre-defense around three weeks ago. I received a number of comments, suggestions and corrections, after which I had my online pre-defense last Friday. I have to admit that the online situation is not as exciting and as inspiring as the real thing, and that it’s definitely a big let down in the emotional fantasy one creates about it (AND DON’T EVEN LET ME START WITH THE NO-GRADUATION-CEREMONY SUBJECT). As a philosophy student, in particular, as a philosophy student pursuing a career in academia, the whole defending and arguing in front of an audience ready to engage in discussion is a big part of what we do and what we are expected to do, so, yeah, that was a tad disappointing. But that’s basically why I’m doing a PhD after this, so I can have another chance.

Long Distance Pre-Defense
Photo Credits: Eduardo

Nevertheless, I can proudly say I managed to make the best out of this bizarre situation, and, retrospectively, I’d have to admit that it was due to these special circumstances that I had the freedom to dedicate myself almost exclusively to the writing of my thesis.

So, for your own benefit, here’s brief list of tips for you to take the COVID-19 quarantine into your academic advantage.

Don’t Judge Me
Photo Credits: Eduardo
  1. Trapped in Your Own Home. Not being able to leave your house/flat/room can be both a blessing and a burden. With the right attitude, you can at least turn it into a distraction-free environment. If you live with roommates, make sure to discuss your needs and find an agreement that benefits you all. If there is only a common place that you can make use for your writing, come up with a schedule/time table that gives you and the others a just and equitable time to make use of that space. If this is not necessary, then just find yourself the most comfortable spot in the room and make it all yours.
  2. Stay Hydrated: coffee, tea, water, redbull, redbull-vodka , whatever keeps your gears running.
  3. Get into the Role: Think of yourself as a talented, renowned academic who is ready to come up with a groundbreaking research piece. You are smart, you are young, you are the very proud face of UT. The Nobel is yours!
  4. Create Your Own Work Office: Design a functional, inviting, organised place for you to work at. Make it pretty. Have the stuff you need always around you. Books, notebooks, pens and pencils, headphones, drinks and snacks (a full tummy is a working tummy, but try to keep it healthy!). And please, do your best to keep it clean, you might not notice it, but a clean space is way more inviting and relaxing than a messy one. Even if no one is ever allowed to see your secret lair, just imagine what your dear mum would say if she were to walk into it.
  5. Make Music Your Best Friend: Take your time to make a good playlist, something that will keep you inspired and creative, neither too catchy, for you can get distracted, nor too relaxing, or you will just fall asleep. Find your perfect mean and work with your music.
  6. Make Shifts and Take Breaks. Are you an all-nighter? Tonight is your night, you don’t need to go anywhere tomorrow. Are you an early bird? Lucky you! You don’t need to be anywhere else today but home. Home, sweet home. Whatever is your time of the day to work, pick one and make it yours. Just like anybody does in regular circumstances, shifts help you separate life from work, business from pleasure, so make sure no to get them mixed and seriously, DON’T OVER WORK! Let your mind and body recovery on a daily basis. Make little breaks every 45 minutes. Let your brain rest and move your body around. After 4 hours of work you might wanna consider doing something else. Cook something. Do some exercise. If you are still motivated afterwards, sit your ass down and keep writing.
  7. Know Your Motivations. If you are not in the mood, if you are not really feeling it, then don’t do it. Know that you will have to do it anyway, but at least be honest to yourself and don’t waste your own time pretending you are working when you are either on your phone or figuring out how many eyes does a fly have. Building the habit of sitting down for hours without actually being productive is not going to help you. Measure your work by the amount of pages written, not by the time spent in front of your computer.
  8. Set Yourself Clear, Realistic Goals. Finally, get to know your work capacity. Start with easy, achievable goals. Let’s say, 500 words a day. Build on it. Keep pushing. Once you start writing 2000 words a day, you know you are done. You are a professional now. You deserve the title. Make everyone call you MASTER, for that’s what you are, no less.
You Can Do It
Photo Credits: Eduardo

So, good luck with your writing, let’s meet and celebrate once this whole “/&(/$”)=” Corona circus is over! Soon! Soon! SOON! SOOOOOOON! *Laughs manically*