After (officially) launching in mid-January, February was our first full month of Daily Academic posts. We’ve heard from 7 scholars so far in fields ranging from Literature to Religion, History to Communication. While I work on bringing in more scholars’ voices from the STEM fields and Social Sciences, I thought I’d share some of my favorite pearls of wisdom we’ve received so far.

On structuring time:

“I am a strong proponent of doing something for the dissertation every day. There are only a limited number of days from when you start working to when you must defend, so each day is an opportunity to move forward. Whether that is researching, reading, collecting data, brainstorming, outlining, or actually writing, I try to do something related to my dissertation every day.”-Emma Bloomfield

“I broke up the day by focusing on different projects between morning and afternoon. These projects generally entailed analyzing or translating a primary source, reading secondary materials (slower if in Japanese), or drafting chapters. Because each of these tasks required different mental skills and levels of energy, alternating between them helped sustain my focus.”  -Caleb Carter

“I think that recognizing your limits is a huge part of scheduling and productivity. Two hours of extremely high productivity beats 4 hours of low productivity.”-Nikita Hamilton

“In many ways, there is no way for me to give you a day in my life that wouldn’t somehow be fairly exceptional (and also probably fairly impractical). Yes, I have done a string of 10 hour-a-day writing and research fests to share a draft with my dissertation reading group. I have written for 15 minutes and spent the rest of the time on grant applications (because yes, you need to do those as well). I have also spent a month on a single translation.”-Kate Page-Lippsmeyer

“Creating limited freedom in my schedule makes me feel the need to write with intensity on my days off.”Chelsea Johnson

“Overall, I find I’m at my most productive and satisfied with myself when I’ve put long-term goals into the calendar, then worked backward dividing those tasks up into weekly and daily goals that are manageable without letting the overwhelming anxiety of a project’s size or length get the best of me.” -Japanese History Ph.D. candidate

“I start each week by listing all the things I realistically plan to get done that week on an index card. I keep that index card in my planner and derive great satisfaction every time I cross a task off. I try to write down even really small tasks so that I feel like I am getting a lot of work done.”-Tim Benedict

On work-life balance:

“I shaped my graduate school career around what would make me happy. I chose a dissertation topic that interested me personally so that fieldwork felt less like an obligation.”-Chelsea Johnson

“Having a family helps me keep a fairly clear line between work and personal time.”-Tim Benedict

“I also make sure that some of my mind-numbing tasks, like database entry, are scheduled to be done at home where I have my secondary monitor, and I don’t hesitate to watch a couple hours of TV to the right while I work on the coding/copy-pasting data I have to do on the left. Half work, half play. Keeps me going.”-Japanese History Ph.D. candidate

“Take one day off every week and don’t feel guilty about it.”-Kate Page-Lippsmeyer

“I have a family with small children so my days were, in part, structured around family life. Typically this meant a 9-5 schedule with some light work for an hour or two in the evening.”-Caleb Carter

On writing and research strategies:

“Knowing your strengths is just as important as knowing your weaknesses.”-Kate Page-Lippsmeyer

“Having a schedule (that’s being followed) and a plan/outline is what helps me write most efficiently. There are few things as intimidating as sitting in front of a blank computer screen with that blinking vertical line and while having no plan.”-Nikita Hamilton

“Wednesdays have become writing days, where I open previous note files and begin writing or expanding the dissertation text. While writing, I try not to let any ancillary research or citations distract me from writing. Instead of pausing to look up a citation or verify a quotation, I bold anything that I need to come back to and continue writing. I’ve found that this helps me keep a writing flow where I forgo editing ideas during the writing process.”-Emma Bloomfield

“I do try to write as I read, making sure that I find at least three ways to tie in an author’s main arguments to central questions in my work. In this way, I do not just read for information, but to directly feed a chapter of the dissertation.”-Chelsea Johnson

“Fortunately, my daughter is not a very early riser but I plan on being occupied with her between 7-8:30am on most days. Since I am a morning person, if I have work to do, I need to get up before that to put in an hour or two of quiet work, usually writing.”-Tim Benedict

“Now that I’m finally in more of a writing stage, I’m also divvying up those tasks with an online blog group to whom I’m accountable for 300 words a day for five days a week, to start.” -Japanese History Ph.D. candidate

“I would generally research one chapter at a time. As I approached the end of the research, I would write up a quick draft of the chapter. This was very rough and mainly just to formulate and then preserve my ideas on the topic while they were still fresh. This approach made the final year of writing fairly straightforward: I had drafts for each chapter and a clearer vision of the entire project that then helped me in reshaping each individual chapter. I saved the Introduction and Conclusion for last.” -Caleb Carter


If you want to get caught up on our Daily Academic posts, you can find all of them by clicking here.

If you would like to submit to the blog, please check out our How to Submit page. I’m especially interested in hearing from more Social Scientists and STEMers!

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