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PhD thesis coping mechanisms

July 19, 2012

Compiling all my work into a thesis? After spending so much time doing research, getting an overview, reading the relevant literature and punching away on papers (over and over until every co-author, referee and editor is near satisfied) – You think it would be easy, right?… Far from it, man. You are going to need coping mechanisms.


Here is my top 10 list of mechanisms that keep my head in a fairly sane and happy place:

  1. Reading the PhD comics by Jorge Cham
  2. Reading Frank Miller graphic novels – Sin City series at the moment. The artwork is amazing!
  3. Geeking out over two TV-shows. For me Castle (ABC) and Game of Thrones (HBO) does it. (I need to keep the list short.)
  4. Trusting myself above most. It took me a LONG time to get to this point, and I’m still working on it. The fact is, most times no-one knows the shit you’ve been working on as well as you do.
  5. When in doubt, asking myself “What would Yoda tell me to do?” – And then get on with it.
  6. Planning a day ahead. Before finishing for the day I make a realistic list of things I want to get done the next day. (Making a super-hero list is really just setting myself up for failure – and that really kills my thunder.) I start every day by doing the thing I dread the most.
    A friend of mine, Benedicte, taught me this trick after reading a book called “Eat that Frog“. I’ve finally ordered a copy myself.
  7. I’ve stopped expecting great advice from incompetent people. Hoping for an “awakening” is really a waste of time.
  8. Looking for answers in Zuur et al (2009).
  9. Writing outlines before writing papers (or essays or theses). I didn’t use to bother before even though I knew I should. After making it a part of my writing routine, my communicating got FAR FAR more efficient. It helps me to keep my mind organized and most importantly, it keeps me focused on the “story” I want to get across.
  10. Writing a mystery novel with a marine biology backdrop that lets me kick asses I’m not supposed to in real life ;-)

Please feel free to add your own tips in the comment field, or promote your own PhD coping blog/website by a description and a link.

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