If you’re like me, researching and writing a dissertation makes you want to put your head in a vice and scream. I love my job as a researcher and teacher, but writing a thesis? Not so much.
The truth is that there’s nothing easy about this process—but if you can manage your time well enough, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. Here are some tips for how to write your dissertation when you have kids:
Wake Up Early Or Stay Up Late
To write your dissertation, you’ll need to get up early. If you work best in the morning, set your alarm to wake up at 5 am and write for an hour before the rest of your family wakes up. If you are more productive in the evening, set your alarm for 10 pm and write for two hours after everyone else has gone to bed.
Either way, ensure that when it is time for bed again (and no matter how tired or exhausted you feel), you do not close your eyes until at least midnight. This will help give you some extra energy during daylight hours when most people are working their jobs!
Create Blocks Of Time
One of the most important things you can do when writing a dissertation is set aside time in your calendar to work on it. If you’re anything like me, the demands that life makes will inevitably get in the way of those blocks.
I’ve found that it’s best to create two or three blocks per day and not allow myself to schedule anything else during them. This means making sure I have enough time for my kids and other responsibilities—and being willing to say no if someone asks me out or puts something on my calendar during one of those blocks.
I also try not to let myself do anything else during those writing times (except maybe check email). It’s really easy for humans to drift away from what we’re supposed to be doing when there are distractions around us—smart phones or television shows that tempt us with their shiny newness—so make sure you genuinely focus on the task at hand!
As a PhD candidate with kids and a full-time job, you can create a block for falling asleep, to spend time researching and a block to start writing.
Plan Your Work
If you plan on spending only a few hours a day or writing part-time and not full-time for writing then I recommend planning.
Once you know what your dissertation is about and what material you want to include, it’s time to plan. It would be best if you did this in a way that will ensure that you can stick with the schedule you have made for yourself. If you don’t plan properly, chances are high that your work won’t be finished on time, which can have very negative consequences.
Always Be Thinking
Your dissertation is a living, breathing thing. It will grow and change as you do. You will not do it tomorrow or next week, but you will do it eventually. So you need to think about your dissertation all the time—you need to make yourself think about it as often as possible so that when the time comes for real writing (which is probably still a ways off), everything will already be laid out in your brain and ready to go.
It’s easy enough to imagine yourself writing the dissertation at first:
- what would happen if I sat down right here and wrote this paragraph?
- Where would my fingers position themselves on my keyboard?
- Would I use spell check, or would I type without looking at what I was doing?
But then also ask yourself questions like these:
- What does this paragraph mean?
- Why did I write it like this instead of some other way?
- What am I trying to say with this sentence?
- Can any parts of my argument be strengthened or simplified so that they are easier for me and others who read them later on down the line
The Rule Of Threes
The Rule of Threes is a productivity method that helps you manage your time. You can only focus on three things at once, so you can get more done by focusing on fewer tasks. In the case of writing a dissertation while parenting, the rule of threes might look something like this:
- Write three pages a day.
- Read three pages per day (at least).
- Spend 30 minutes each day reading about writing dissertations from people who have already written them and know what they’re talking about (in other words, don’t write or read about writing for an hour).
It’s important to remember that when you try to do more than one thing at a time, you end up doing less. The reason? To be successful at any task, your brain must focus all of its attention on the task at hand.
When you are trying to concentrate on something like writing a dissertation and having a conversation or watching TV in the background, your brain will spend most of its energy trying to process both tasks at once rather than focusing fully on either individually.
This means that it will take longer for you to complete either task because instead of concentrating completely on each step as it comes up, your brain is constantly switching between them so frequently that neither gets done quickly or well enough.
In other words: multitasking might make some things easier (like folding laundry while watching Netflix). Still, if what you’re doing requires concentration and focus—such as writing an academic paper—it’s better not even try!
Organize Your Time
- Use a calendar. Don’t forget to schedule your dissertation time the same way you would any other important event, like an appointment or your kid’s play date. If you’re still having trouble keeping track of when exactly you are working on it, use a separate calendar for this purpose!
- Use a planner. We all have ways of doing things and organizing ourselves—this is especially true when planning out our days and weeks. Maybe writing down what needs to be done will help. Consider using a planner (or notebook) with blank pages starting at the beginning of the month; write down all tasks that need doing during each day, along with little notes about them (so they’re not forgotten). This can help clear up confusion and give peace of mind by knowing exactly what needs doing every day so there’ll be no surprises later on when it comes time to get things done!
- Use an app for extra motivation! Apps such as Habitica allow users set daily goals along with rewards for accomplishing them within certain parameters (such as how many times per week). This allows individuals who might otherwise struggle with self-discipline to find new ways to achieve their goals while also inspiring others by showing off the progress made throughout each week/monthly cycle.”
Ask For Help, And Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
In addition to the obvious benefits of asking for help, it’s also a great way to build your social and professional networks. You don’t have to be a loner when you have kids. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable. It means that you know your priorities and are willing to make sacrifices to achieve them, including taking maternity leave.
You may also need help with childcare so that you can focus on your dissertation without worrying about whether someone will pick up your child from school or babysit after soccer practice on Thursday night.
If someone offers, say yes! If they don’t offer, ask anyway—and keep asking until you find someone available at the time and place where YOU need them (and not just when THEY want). You might not get as much sleep as usual, but remember: this is an investment in yourself! It will pay off in many ways—including financially if you can afford daycare fees while working towards this goal.
Do Something Physical
If you’re like me, when you’re writing a dissertation, it can feel like there’s no time for anything else. Between work, kids, and the rest of life’s responsibilities, sometimes even reading a book is too much to ask. But there are ways to make time for yourself without sacrificing productivity or quality time with your children. One way is doing something physical—and I don’t mean going for a run (though that’s good too).
For example, yesterday was one of those days where I hadn’t had enough sleep and felt like I was spinning my wheels on my dissertation project. So instead of sitting in front of my computer typing away at more words that were likely useless, I decided to try out some new workout equipment we had ordered months ago but never opened until now (thank goodness!).
For thirty minutes straight, I did ab exercises while watching YouTube videos—and not only did I feel better after finishing them all up, but I also felt more relaxed when returning to work afterward!
Give Yourself A Break
As a parent, you know how important it is to give yourself some time to recharge. It’s not just your kids who need breaks from their parents: you do too!
It would be best if you avoid burnout, so make sure you don’t overdo it and end up completely exhausted by the time your dissertation submission date rolls around. Your kids will be there for the long haul—you don’t have to be too. You can take advantage of this knowledge by taking breaks throughout the day or week and spending quality time with them without worrying about having another task hanging over your head all at once.
It’s also important not to let your children distract or stress you out while working on your dissertation—or even just thinking about what tasks need doing next!
Remember that they’re watching everything that happens in their environment as they grow up; if they see their mommy stressed out all day long while trying her best but still struggling with something (like writing her paper), they might start feeling stressed themselves! Don’t let this happen: take care of yourself first so that everyone else gets cared for better later on down the track too.
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The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Many students have families, and some even have more than one child.
Take a deep breath, and get ready for the ride! I know what it’s like because I have three kids myself. So here are some tips from me:
- Wake up early or stay up late,
- create blocks of time for yourself,
- plan your work well (but don’t overcomplicate things), and
- always be thinking about your dissertation topic (even when you think you can’t!),
- keep everything organized so that there are no excuses when it comes time to sit down at the computer keyboard (or notebook or pen on paper).
- If all else fails: take a break!
With a passion for helping students navigate their educational journey, I strive to create informative and relatable blog content. Whether it’s tackling exam stress, offering career guidance, or sharing effective study techniques