You’ve made it through some big dissertation hurdles: your proposal passed, you hit a writing groove, and most of your chapters are written. You’re SO close to being done, but not quite there yet.
Maybe you have a chapter left to go, maybe you just need to wrap up that conclusion, or maybe you’re at the stage where you need to step back and do a final round of edits to pull the whole thing together.
Writing takes an emotional, physical, intellectual, and even financial toll on your life. Here’s how you can finish your dissertation in a timely fashion and feel good about closing this major chapter (pun intended).
Change your routine
A change in routine is often the best (and easiest) way to looking at your dissertation with new eyes. Yes, you may have already found a writing nook, buddy, or time of day that works for you to get stuff done—and that’s great! But if you’re showing up day after day and still struggling to finish those final dissertation pages, your chosen routine may be part of why you’re in a rut.
Try simple changes: a new location or moving your desk to another corner of the room. If you’ve been writing first thing in the morning, try on some early evening editing. Think about who you write with alongside where and when you write. If you haven’t found a writing buddy, seek out a colleague to help keep you accountable for that last dissertation push. If you’ve been working diligently with a writing group, maybe a few solo writing dates are what you need to clear your head.
Put it away for awhile
It may feel counterintuitive to set things aside right as you’re wrapping up a major project, but sometimes forcing out those last words or changing things isn’t the answer.
Depending on how much time you’ve built into your schedule, this could mean setting your writing aside for a few days or even weeks. Even a half-day off from looking at a document you’ve poured months or years of your time into can mean a much-needed mental break.
Plan a writing retreat to finish
Whether near or far, a writing retreat is an opportunity to block out a more significant chunk of time in your schedule to dedicate to your writing than you may have been able to at any other stage in the dissertation writing process.
Ideally, this retreat would mean a change of scenery and routine. But if you can’t swing that, even a writing “staycation” of 24 hours—without calls, email, and other digital (and analog) distractions—can help you focus and finish your dissertation.
Work on your defense presentation (if you have one)
Okay, hear me out here. Sometimes what you really need to make it through that last crucial push is a fresh start and a new project. However, this isn’t the time to actually take on new research. Shifting gears a bit to work on a distinct but related project—your dissertation defense presentation—can give you the energy that comes from a new challenge while still helping you work toward the same goal: finishing and passing.
Moreover, developing a strong defense presentation requires you step back and take a macro view of your dissertation. You will need to reflect on how your work will resonate with an audience and determine how best to relay your big ideas and findings. In other words, this is an opportunity to revisit the question of why your work is meaningful and important. Taking the time to firm up your answer is a great way to remind yourself why finishing this dissertation matters.
You can do it!