By Dr. Robert Lee Gordon
Associate Professor, Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University
When a graduate student is finally past all their core coursework and all that remains is the dreaded 699 thesis course, there are some that have difficulty maintaining balance in their personal lives. On one hand, the student will be focused on the master’s thesis, while, on the other the hand they still need have a life. There are times when these commitments of life clash with the thesis commitments, causing high levels of stress for the individual. To achieve success one must learn how to relax and still be successful. Given that an unfettered mind is a productive mind, one must seek to reduce the distractions and complications of modern life in order to be successful. It is understood that this is no easy feat, but one must strive to clear their mind in order to better concentrate upon the prize.
The master’s thesis process is a new pressure and distraction above our already complex lives. Learning how to achieve peace and serenity is much more than finding a quiet room to work on your master’s thesis. What is necessary is allowing for enough separation so that when one does get down to the business of writing that one can remain focused. Achieving clarity of thought is important to anyone who concentrates on their thesis. To this end, there are two proven strategies to achieve this clarity, one is to plan and dedicate times especially for each important activity in life (including time for the thesis); the second is to advertise this schedule to others so that one can be held accountable.
Set up a time management timeline.
The first strategy to achieve and maintain this type of clarity is to dedicate times for family, friends, personal time for the student and, of course, the master’s thesis. A little progress on a daily or weekly basis will go a long way to achieving your goal. A schedule will prepare one’s subconscious mind for the event. For example, remember how focused you were when an important final test was looming? Now consider how that focus could dwindle if that same important test was looming, but no date for the test had been set. Such a situation is a procrastinator’s paradise as no deadline means no worries. Hence the need to set a timeline and milestone dates for every section of the thesis to ensure that progress will be maintained.
As part of this timeline process, it is helpful to set smaller goals during the time allotted. For example, select a topic or part of your outline that you will write about during a given writing session. Do not just use a massive deadline such as, the literature review will be completed, edited and submitted in seven days. Create smaller tasks, with realistic deadlines, in order to gauge the process. Consider how focused a person can be on a three hour essay test that is worth 50% of the class grade. I am always amazed at how much one can get done when there is that kind of pressure and need to write. That kind of pressure is exactly the kind of motivation that is needed to make each writing session highly productive. Treating each writing session as if it were a test will help the individual stay focused towards greater productivity and success.
As a master’s student, there is always a deadline looming in the form of the thesis, so it may be difficult to relax. The beauty of a schedule will help dispel feelings of guilt when time is spent away from the work, because with the plan for success already in motion you can then relax during thesis time. A schedule will help a person relax when they are not working on the thesis. If one is less stressed before writing, then one can be more focused when it does come time to write.
Communicate your schedule with others.
Explain these times to everyone so that people can also help keep you on target. Some people find that posting their deadlines on Facebook or LinkedIn can help get others to cheer them on, or to remind them of looming deadlines. If your friends know you have some hard deadlines in place, they will be less likely to want to ask you to join them on the spur of the minute flight to Albuquerque to get away from the cold weather. Friends will want to see you succeed, and they will likely encourage a person to spend the time on their master’s thesis.
People respect the balance if it is equitable, so make sure that it is fair for everyone. One also needs to post these deadlines and goals someplace prominent in order for others to know about them. For those of us who have less of an online presence, the refrigerator is a good place for this. Posting information someplace that people look at all the time will help them remember as well as to communicate to others this information. It keeps the times and tasks in the front of everyone’s mind as well as making it clear that the times are important enough to be posted.
These kinds of changes might not be easy for everyone, and I am certain that some people have completed their master’s thesis without such methods, but the question is always: how long did it take them? Creating a timeline, setting goals and making dedicated time for a master’s thesis is not the only way to achieve success, but I can guarantee that it is going to get done a lot faster if one follows this advice.
About the Author
Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is currently an associate professor with American Public University System in Reverse Logistics Management program. He has four published books, three regarding project management and one regarding reverse logistics in addition to dozens of articles. Dr. Gordon curates a Reverse Logistics topic at http://www.scoop.it/t/reverse-logistics-by-robert-gordon2.