Productivity Methods for Dissertation Productivity

Written by on June 3, 2013 in Academic Publishing - Leave a Comment

How do you stay on task with your dissertation?Having a set method to increase your dissertation writing productivity can help you understand how to motivate yourself while also achieving more of your goals with less time. Whether you’re working alone or with a dissertation editor, researching productivity theory as it applies to the writing process can dramatically improve the speed at which you complete your dissertation. Below are just a few of our favorites for increasing your overall productivity (some adapted from completely different fields!):

(1) Pomodoro

The quintessential productivity method, Pomodoro was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. The crux of the theory is that, by taking frequent breaks, you’ll maintain more energy.

The basic setup (copied shamelessly from Wikipedia) is:

  1. decide on the task to be done
  2. set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes
  3. work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x
  4. take a short break (3-5 minutes)
  5. every four “pomodori” take a longer break (15–30 minutes)

For your dissertation, you can implement this by picking up a timer (which Pomodoro advocates will tell you is essential) and sitting down to get things done!

(2) Getting Things Done

This popular book and method, published in 2002, presents David Allen’s theory on productivity. Based on dividing all of your projects into levels of focus, presumably freeing up your brain-space to guilt-free focus on things that are the most important. The basis of your levels of focus is elevation, prompting you to divvy up all of your to dos into:

  1. Runway
  2. 10,000 feet level
  3. 20,000 feet level
  4. 30,000 feet level
  5. 40,000 feet level
  6. 50,000 feet level

Different in other theories, Getting Things Done forces you to think from the ground up, tackling things like day-to-day tasks before getting to the big projects. As a dissertation writer, this can be a very helpful method because it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity of your project.

(3) Kanban

Kanban, while traditionally used to maintain workflow in manufacturing, has many principles that you can apply directly to the writing process – whether you’re working on your dissertation or a novel. The inspiring John Rossomangno notes in this blog post about kanban for writers:

Kanban is a means of tracking workflow with a simple visual chart. The system can take a variety of forms: a whiteboard, Post-It notes, or a digital application. The goal is the same, though: present all work that needs to be done, that is currently being worked on, and is completed, in a single glance. Kanban might seem like an odd choice for a writer, but in a career that relies so heavily on self-motivation and self-assessment, kanban … is a great tool to keep you honest with yourself.

Kanban is a means of tracking workflow with a simple visual chart. The system can take a variety of forms: a whiteboard, Post-It notes, or a digital application. The goal is the same, though: present all work that needs to be done, that is currently being worked on, and is completed, in a single glance.

At its core, your dissertation can be broken down into vital inputs and outputs. Understanding the process – and transforming it into a manufacturing process – can help you finalize your work more quickly and efficiently.

So, PhD candidates, what’s your preferred method to increase your overall productivity?

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