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That week proved very productive, and I came back motivated to get the rest of my writing and experiments done. After I returned, I made sure to continue doing some fun activities without necessarily having to achieve something first, as I realized that I should not be too hard on myself. Going for a run between writing spells, for example, allowed me to get some distance from my thesis and helped me to maintain perspective and generate new ideas. But these activities tended to be spontaneous—I didn’t want to put too much on my schedule so that I could continue writing when I was in the flow. Emotionally, what was the thesis writing process like? It was really hard, but I did enjoy it. Writing can feel like a very long, lonely tunnel, but the more you practice, the easier it gets. Starting with the easy task of reformatting my published articles allowed me to make a large amount of progress quickly and feel in control of the writing process while reducing the stress of the approaching deadline. I had a harder time with my thesis introduction, though I really enjoyed digging through the history of my field.
I was even happy that I had to do it—this way, I could prioritize it over other tasks. But the extensive reading made writing much more challenging than I expected, and the tight deadline made it less enjoyable. Almost until the very end, I felt like the task was overly ambitious. To reduce stress at that stage, I kept reminding myself that it was a unique chance to focus on the history of research instead of the research itself. Writing my thesis was for sure an experience that I enjoyed. This was the moment when I was finally putting together all my work of the last 5 years, and I was proud of it. I guess a good work-life balance would have been important; too bad I did not maintain it. All I could feel was panic. For 2 months, I basically did nothing besides writing my thesis and applying for jobs.
When I needed a break from the thesis, I switched to my job applications. This was one of the most miserable times of my academic career. Luckily, at the end I got the postdoc I wanted, which made me forget all the stress and frustration. My Ph.D., including the writing period, was an emotional roller coaster. It wasn’t always easy, but remembering that every little effort brings you closer to your final goal is crucial to just keep going and survive emotionally. And while writing was daunting at times, I also found it motivating to see just how much research I had done. I’m only at the beginning stages of my writing, but it has been enjoyable so far. This is probably because I will finally have something tangible out of my Ph.D., which is immensely encouraging! Do you have any further advice about how to make thesis writing as smooth as possible? My general recommendation is don’t start at the last minute and don’t underestimate the time it will take.