Saturday, February 14, 2015

Forgoing the Slopes for a Day of Thesis-Writing

As I sit in my favorite building on campus, I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't rather be skiing. Luckily for me it was so far in the negative-degrees farenheit up at Smuggler's Notch this morning, that I don't mind taking a day away from the bitter cold to be productive.

Since my mind is consumed with thesis (and my other academic requirements for graduation), I figured it was worth brain-dumping my process to offer a glimpse of what it means to be in the midst of such a project. For what it's worth, I really like research. My favorite classes as an undergrad have been those that include some research paper or project; because even though assignments like this can be a lot of work, I enjoy learning deeply about a topic and using the tools of analysis I've gathered from a course. So for me, the thesis is not just a huge (and somewhat daunting) project, it's also enjoyable in a lot of ways.

I find that there are a couple mental tools that help me to organize my thoughts around the whole project. First of all, I try to remind myself that there is a terminus. It's my intention to do well, and produce a very complete project that incorporates as much analysis as possible. But ultimately, come April I have to turn in whatever project I happen to have completed. By thinking of the project as something finite and definitive, I find that I can sit down and chip away at it slowly, rather than allowing it to be elusive and freaking myself out about it constantly. Second, I intentionally set progress goals that are pretty ambitious. If I know I need to get 3 hours of work done by the end of the weekend, and I set a goal of 6 hours, then it's okay if I only accomplish 4 hours in reality. By allowing myself some leeway in terms of expectations, I find that I'm able to alleviate some of the self-induced pressure and resulting stress that tend to accompany research for many students.

Basically, there are a lot of ways to freak oneself out about research. One can easily get anxious about the amount of data collected, journals read, or pages written at any step in the process. But these are only distractions; worry and anxiety tend only to detract from my ability to do good work. By minimizing these distractions as much as possible, I'm able to forgo some high blood pressure AND get more work done at the end of the day. It's a constant process, but when I'm productive it feels so much better.

But it's so very good (photo source).
Finally, it's important to find outlets for the stress that one will naturally experience (because minimizing stress does not mean getting rid of it entirely, also coffee elevates your heart rate). That's why as soon as I hit 'publish post' this afternoon, I'm taking off to the gym for a brief workout to blow off some steam. After taking a few hours to exercise and get dinner with a friend, I'll be able to come back to my work later feeling refreshed (and skiing tomorrow will feel so much better!).

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment