Motivation for PhD thesis writing during the COVID-19 pandemic
Thesis writing is tough enough at the best of circumstances, but maintaining motivation while a global epidemic rages around us may be very difficult! During these hard times in the COVID-19 coronavirus era, it is vital for PhD postgrads, academics and researchers to hang in there and really find ways to ensure your mental health, especially during times when you really need all the focus you can have, like when writing your thesis.
If your motivation at an all low, try not to be too hard on yourself — it is just as essential to be nice to others as it is to be kind to yourself right now. It is natural that your enthusiasm has dwindled – your well planned out goals for the year may have been harmed by the severe upheavals we have seen in 2020, and you are undoubtedly exhausted from the additional responsibilities the year has put on you. With that in mind, do not feel obligated to work on your thesis full-time right now; you may have other pressing matters to attend to. However, if you want to get some thesis work done in the next weeks, consider one or all of the following methods to rekindle your drive.
Discover your source of motivation.
After the events of the past six months, your motivations for enrolling in a thesis may be long forgotten. Did you enroll because you like learning new things, or because you have a strong interest in your research subject or a want to share your discoveries with others? Whatever the case may be, now is the moment to remind yourself of it, and maybe even write it down someplace so you do not forget it in the months ahead.
Alternatively, you may find inspiration in other places. When I was enrolled in my PhD program, there was a book chapter that motivated me to pursue my study; I kept it on hand and read it anytime my motivation waned. When I was writing up my thesis, I maintained a document containing positive comments from my study participants to remind myself that my work had made much difference, and also that I owed it to those who had participated to complete what I had begun.
If the concepts above do not connect with you, consider where you could locate your own source of inspiration.
Consider the finish line.
Many people’s data collecting plans are up in the air, and others’ plans are being severely disrupted, so it is difficult to say when you will complete. Assure yourself that you will complete, even if it will not be in the time period you had planned for. Consider how you will feel when you eventually submit your thesis, and what an accomplishment it will be to having finished something as difficult as a thesis in the middle of a pandemic.
In-person graduation ceremonies should resume by the time you graduate, so imagine yourself going across the stage and being crowned. Alternatively, see your published and bound thesis on your bookshelf, or make preparations for the celebration party you will host.
Make friends with others.
We may be geographically separated at the time, but it does not mean you may not interact with other academics or seek help if necessary. Check out what your institution has to offer graduate students — many provide drop-in sessions, hush up and write clubs, and other virtual networking opportunities. Talking to somebody about your research, or even discussing some of the problems you are having, may help you stay motivated and give you some new ideas for going ahead.
One little stride forward
The problem with motivation is sometimes simply getting started. If you tell yourself you are working on your thesis first thing in the morning, you are not going to accomplish it! Because a thesis is a big undertaking, it may seem daunting at times, which can detract from your drive. Instead, choose a quick activity that will take no more than 10–15 minutes to accomplish. If that is all you have time for that day, that is great – 10–15 minutes is better than doing nothing, and it may just motivate you to get another small block the next day.
However, once we begin a job, we often continue it, so you may find yourself struggling for more than you expected.
Take a breather.
This suggestion may seem contradictory – should not you be pushing longer to get motivated? I believe we can all concur that the first half of the year has been very demanding, and a lack of drive may be a symptom of exhaustion. Obviously, a sunny foreign vacation is not in the cards right now, but how about arranging a little vacation for yourself? Take a few days off and create a list of things you would do on vacation – choose a combination of soothing and energizing activities, and make sure there are a few you can enjoy regardless of your alert level or physical distancing needs. When you resume to your thesis, evaluate your motivation levels, and if this approach has shown to be effective, make plans for another short vacation soon.
Take care of yourself.
If you do not have time for a short break, try concentrating on some of the fundamentals – exercise, nutrition, and stress management – all of which you have undoubtedly been ignoring in the midst of the insanity of the past few months. This may appear paradoxical since it has nothing to do with your argument. When you think about it, you are the key driver behind your study, and if you are not operating at maximum capacity, getting any work done would be very difficult. Motivation is influenced by both physical and mental health, therefore it is sometimes helpful to take a step back and evaluate where you are with these two vital elements of our well-being. Do during these tough times in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic era, do all you can to protect your mental health, especially during your thesis writing stages!