Should I Work Or Not When I Write My Master Thesis?

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Balance work and thesis

Balance work and thesis

One of my former students to the question “What is your most pressing question in writing your thesis” replied. “Time. I work together with writing and it is very hard to get myself to do any work on thesis after I come home in the afternoons. But I decreased my hours to just 60%, so it is going better now.”

I must admit: when I was writing my thesis, I also made this mistake. I had a job. My challenge was to properly balance the working hours with the time I needed to spend on my thesis project. I was getting terrified as the time would pass by because I had a scheduled deadline for delivery (like most of us do). I felt ashamed to admit that I did not accomplish much in a given period of time. Frustration grew. Excuses were used. I agree it is hard to keep up with everything. As a result, lack of focus and motivation tear us apart.
Although in one of my previous posts I wrote about how one can balance work, family and thesis project here is what you really need to keep in mind when working on your thesis. If you work (non-thesis) too many hours (you should feel if it’s too many) you really need to decrease this number of working hours to as minimum as possible and increase your productivity when working from home or at University on your project. Let me tell you why you should do it.

In most cases, I recommend that a full time student not be involved in any kind of external work but focusing on his/her final project. This is the fastest way to get your thesis done. Ideally, you should treat your project as a 9–5 job. This about it this way: you can’t have two 9-5 jobs, can you? But you can have two or more part-time jobs. One – thesis; two – your professional work.

If you’re working part time, and there is no way you want to quit your job to focus ‘full-time’ on one, you need to approach your employer and let him know about your situation. One of the best ways would be if you could agree on the maximum two working days a week. It is better to work two non-consecutive days. Better yet if it is part-time. Let’s say, every Tuesday and Thursday you show up at work between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (or you adjust it yourself to your best schedule). That should give you a plenty of time in the evenings to continue focusing on your thesis project.

Remember one critical thing. When you work too many hours (external work) you can get easily distracted. And when you are distracted it is always harder to go back to where you were in your thesis project. This is why so many, including myself, get frustrated when they write a paper/thesis. In other words, the more you think of something else the more difficult it is to get back on track. If it is long enough it might actually feel as though you need to start your project all over again. And the more you feel it this way the more likely you will be trapped in a war of self-distraction again leading to more frustration and disappointment in self.

Ideally, think of your thesis all the time i.e. wherever you are e.g. models, frameworks, methodologies, analytical arguments etc. It is like learning a language. Where do you think you learn most? In the bed, because your thoughts are all about the new words you learned, rules you read, texts you listened to and so on.

  • So, all in all, treat it as 9-5 job.
  • Don’t work (external job) for more than 10 hours e.g. 2 days.
  • Have a schedule
  • Stick to your deadline
  • Don’t get distracted
  • Try to always think of new ideas. Record them.

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