Accomplishing difficult things
There are two schools of thought on how best to approach difficult or daunting tasks:
- Eat your frogs first: start your day with the item on your task list that you are dreading the most. Get it out of the way so your mind is clear to focus on other more enjoyable (or less intimidating) tasks.
- Build momentum: begin with easy/fun tasks or begin with a task you have left half-finished the previous day. This will get you into working mode and help you feel positive about the day’s outlook. Once you have a more enjoyable task or two completed, move on to the more difficult/involved tasks.
Consider experimenting with both – which method works best for you?
Tip: Thesis writing is a marathon and not a sprint – take it day by day and break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Reward yourself along the way as you complete each step and meet each deadline and create times and places for work and times and places for other important life things.”
– Sociology PhD Graduate
Tips for maintaining momentum over time:
- End every work session with a short description of what you’ll work on in the next session. This way, even if there are extended periods of time between working on a particular project, you will have a reminder of where to start and be able to get back into “the zone” easier.
- Form a support group, or what Blair calls a “Community of Practice” – a group of students in your department, and elsewhere, who are at a similar stage in the thesis process. This community can help you stay motivated, provide suggestions and feedback when you are stuck, and help shift your perspective. The “Staying Well While Writing” section of this toolkit has more suggestions for how to build an academic community.
- Work smarter, not more. Try the pomodoro technique to work intensively with frequent breaks.
– Chemistry, 2019
 Lorrie Blair, “What Is a Thesis?,” in Writing a Graduate Thesis or Dissertation, ed. Lorrie Blair, Teaching Writing (Rotterdam: SensePublishers, 2016), 1–6, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6300-426-8_1.
 Francesco Cirillo, The Pomodoro Technique (New York: Currency, 2018).