5 Productivity Hacks for Finishing Your Dissertation | Issue 220

By Gayle Scroggs, PhD, PCC, ABD Survival Guide Editor

"As if you could kill time without injuring eternity." ~ Henry David Thoreau

If you are beginning your dissertation work or experiencing challenges, take time now to evaluate your work processes. Which of these programs and apps could enhance your productivity? Not everyone works the same, so experiment with the ones that appear to offer you the most return on the investment of your learning time. A few hours of effort now could spare you weeks of grief later.

1. GET TRACTION ON THE LIT REVIEW DRAFT

Going in circles composing a draft of your lit review or other chapter? Check out Scrivener, a program many academics rely on in the early stages of writing research. Since no one writes linearly, Scrivener lets you start writing wherever and whatever. Using simple integrated writing tools, you can create a mess of writing fragments, import stuff, and later weave a coherent draft.

After a 30-day trial, you pay $40 to download the Windows or Mac version. Consider free alternatives, but beware the temptation to look for the perfect solution. Choose one and learn to use it via built-in tutorials and other web tips. [P.S. Once adept, take advantage of your Scrivener skills to pen your autobiographical novel or screenplay about how you conquered your dissertation.]

 

2. TAME YOUR REFERENCE FILES

 

Quit wading in disorganized printouts of pdfs of journal articles. Store, organize, annotate, cite, and share such materials with a reference management program-and start now. For an endless debate, assert that your choice--Mendeley, EndNote, Zotero, or F1000Workspace--is the best program for everyone.

Personally, I like the way Mendeley suggests new articles based on those already in my library. Others want Zotero's footnote citation capability, and some appreciate the unlimited storage at F1000. Mendeley and Zotero are free, as is EndNote for most students through their university library. Do your due diligence by comparing and contrasting their features using this handy chart. Then select the one most aligned with your needs and turn a deaf ear to users of other programs. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and you don't want to lose too much time switching around.

3. THROW TOMATOES AT IT

Quit wading in disorganized printouts of pdfs of journal articles. Store, organize, annotate, cite, and share such materials with a reference management program-and start now. For an endless debate, assert that your choice—Mendeley, EndNote, Zotero, or F1000Workspace—is the best program for everyone.

Personally, I like the way Mendeley suggests new articles based on those already in my library. Others want Zotero's footnote citation capability, and some appreciate the unlimited storage at F1000. Mendeley and Zotero are free, as is EndNote for most students through their university library. Do your due diligence by comparing and contrasting their features using this handy chart. Then select the one most aligned with your needs and turn a deaf ear to users of other programs. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and you don't want to lose too much time switching around.

 

4. AVOID THE BUNNY TRAILS

You may be kidding yourself about how distractible you have become while working on digital devices. Let RescueTime Lite track how much time you spend with productive programs and sites (e.g., Word or Mendeley) versus entertainment sites (e.g., Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, etc.) for free. You'll get a weekly report that might be enough to shock you into resisting future temptations to go down the bunny trails.

For hard core bunny trail hoppers, subscribe to RescueTime's premium version. It blocks distracting websites, alerts you when daily goals are reached, and tracks your time away from the computer. Find alternatives to RescueTime here.

Who can resist the insistent rings and pings of a smart phone? Even if you do stand firm, your concentration has already been disrupted, costing you valuable time to get back into flow. But you hesitate to turn off your phone in case of emergency calls, right??

What's the solution? While late model Androids and most iPhones include a simple built-in "do not disturb" feature, Suzanne Kantra recommends her favorite alternative (and mine) on Techlicious:

5. BAN INTERRUPTIONS

Silence Premium Do Not Disturb ($2.50 on Google Play) is the best stand-alone app for Android devices. It lets you silence your phone based on your calendar entries, selecting all or just those you select as busy. Set a mute timer if you find yourself in an impromptu meeting. And when you're in silent mode, you can have an auto-responder send text to select contacts to let callers know you're in a meeting.

Personally, I couldn't live without this app on my home page. Before meetings, two quick taps silences my phone for an hour—and I can choose to allow or prevent family calls. You can easily create a regular schedule of quiet time as well as opt for a spontaneous 20-minute quiet time for your coffee nap.

The above smart phone apps can enhance productivity, but only if you use them regularly. Of course, the real trick to reaching a goal involves your mind, not your phone. Commit yourself to getting started and then to saying "no" to anything less important than finishing your doctoral degree. You can do this.

 

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GAYLE SCROGGS, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor, ABDSG. 
An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at gayle@essencecoaching.com for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resource www.essencecoaching.com 

BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (www.MentorCoach.com), a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.

 

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