Five thesis writing tips for procrastinators

Whatever they say, writing a thesis is hard nut to crack. And if you’re a procrastinator, lots of things are left to finish in minimal time. So here’s a list of five things that work great for me to get things done faster, maybe they will for you too?

The least distracted you are, the faster you will be done with thesis writing.
These are my favourite applications to stay focused:


How it works: the tree grows while the app stays open and counts down the time you want to focus for (anything between 10 minutes and two hours). You can even make it play funky forest tunes, like rain falling on leaves. (guaranteed you’ll go to the toilet twice as much though)
If you fail to leave your phone alone and leave the app, your cute little tree dies a sad death 🙁
If when you succeed in leaving it alone however, you not only create a dense forest, you also deserve coins with which you can unlock other species of plants and different sounds to go with it.
This is a really visual reality check for those of us who easily think they have done a lot, while they were actually distracted much of the time (isn’t that all of us?).

cost: $1.99 (but think of all the time you buy back)


How it works: This is an application you can download on a Mac computer that allows you to block websites you want to stay away from if you are easily tempted to drift off. You can choose to make a black list of sites you don’t want to visit, or to make a white list of sites you are only aloud to surf on. This works much better than an extension because you cannot just go onto a different browser to circumvent the blockage. (Guilty as charged.)

cost: absolutely nothing

Facebook feed eradicator

How it works: This is an extension on Google Chrome that you download and let it do it’s job. Painfully true quotes about productivity then pop up instead of your newsfeed that should make you work harder. It is mostly old philosophers giving you a more of an inferiority complex than anything else but still.. I’ve had this application for months now and every now and then I check the feed on my phone, only to realise how I haven’t missed a thing all this time. (There’s always other people checking on relationship intrigues for you :p)

cost: Freeeeeee

2. Social pressure

How it works: Okay this one is a little bit out of the odds, but I really need social pressure to keep me going, knowing I’m not the only one stuck in front of a laptop on a sunny day. Luckily my sister in Belgium is also writing her PhD, so we hold “work Skype sessions” whenever we can. The concept is simple: you Skype each other and you work. She knows whenever my mouth is curling or my eyes dwindle off that I’m thinking about other things, doing other things, … So she’ll call me off my cloud and stick my nose straight back into my books. (unless she’s in that mood and distracts me even more…)

– Emergency food

Cook healthy things, make a lot of extra, put it in boxes and freeze for emergency times. Whenever you haven’t been productive enough during the day and it’s getting later in the day but so much closer to your deadline and you don’t want to waste more time cooking, you just pick one of your previous (undoubtedly delicious) creations out of the freezer!


– Snack all the time

Whenever I’m working from home I’m so tempted to be in my fridge all the time. So I am :). The only way not to grow into another Elky is by stacking loads of carrots, fruits, nuts, … It’s so much easier to make that decision in the supermarket than in the heat of the moment with my fingers already tearing apart the packaging of a cookie box. The only cooky-kind-of-thing I still have is dark chocolate, can never do away with chocolate, don’t be silly. You’ll encounter so many good fika’s whenever you’re out and about anyway, it’s Sweden after all.


– Snap it, work it, quickly sweat it.

My back gets super sore from sitting behind a desk all day, even my knees are just about ready for retirement. So have some dance parties every hour and go for a swim or a run (or whatever you like) early in the day to start your day off right!


– Stalk your supervisors


Supervisors can be such scary people to contact, but they actually aren’t really. You automatically put so much importance in your communication with them, but they are such busy people you are probably just another agenda point. So stalk them, e-mails that go without replies are completely normal and you have to fight to make it onto their agenda. Be polite, but grab their attention!

– Plan, plan, plan


If I don’t plan my day in advance, that’s a guarantee for a day gone wasted. So each evening, I make a tiny schedule for the next day, with hour division. Of course I never live up to my schedules, but it makes me work harder because I have some artificial deadline to live up to and know where I’m at (/how much is left to do), which brings me to the next point of…

– Artificial deadlines

I had a year for my thesis (of which about 5% is now left, with about 50% of the work), so it is way too tempting to take holidays off when you’re far away from that due date. So making artificial deadlines sounds like a natural thing to do, but I mean more than that. If you don’t have any early hand-ins, just create them for yourself. Make promises to your supervisor of parts you will have finished. Hell, even make them to your mom or boy/girlfriend and let them read some things. That pressure is what keeps me on my toes (during holidays off :p).


It may not look like it now, but there’s life after a thesis! So plan something amazeballs to look forward to afterwards. A kayak trip (my personal choice), big graduation party, movie marathon or whatever you are currently deprived of.


Good luck!!!

x Elke


Written by Elke

26 Apr 2017