You can’t escape dips in motivation during dissertation work, but you can lessen their impact and boost your mojo by:
making a clear plan
promising yourself rewards
indulging in some public accountability
chatting with your friends (yes, really)
Make a “to-do” list to map your path to the finish line. By transforming that last slog into small, manageable baby steps, you make it easier to see how to get finished quickly.
When you can see your task as achievable instead of unending, it will be much easier to feel motivated.
I use a to-do app to assign myself discrete, concrete tasks (i.e. tasks that have a measurable completion goal) for specific dates and times. Ticking off when they are done is a huge motivation booster!
Whether its ice-cream, a night out with friends, or an early night and lots of blissful sleep, having something to look forward to is a huge motivator.
Just before my PhD oral defense, for example, I promised myself a new pair of (very nice) shoes. I knew that even if it all went horribly wrong, I would still have the most awesome shoes in town – this thought was immensely uplifting!
Warning: Save these for short-term emergency motivation needs only! They can get expensive / bad for your waistline.
(Brown leather MaryJanes in case you’re wondering. And no – it didn’t go horribly wrong).
Remember that your mind needs time to recharge as much as your body does, and that continuing to push through exhaustion to meet a deadline will only leave you feeling burned out and flat.
Taking the rest you need – whether it’s a five=minute stretch or a 2-day mini-break at a spa (yes please!) – will allow you to step back from the project and see it in its proper perspective. You should find it renews your enthusiasm – and enthusiasm is great for motivation.
According to one study performed in 2022, by seeking public accountability, you are setting what is known as a “performance goal.” Asking others to hold you accountable gives you an external source of motivation only indirectly linked to your dissertation. When you go public, your motivation becomes preserving your self-image and reputation – new motive = new motivation!
We complete PhDs (hopefully) because we have a passion for our field, but that passion can flag when a deadline is looming. By taking the time to chat with others about our research, we can renew our awareness of that passion and thus remember why we’re putting ourselves through the mill.
So, go ahead – phone a friend and call it course work.
Need some extra help staying motivated and on task? Try a free coaching session to find out how I can help you.