Writing Anti-Tips (with illustrations!)

By following a few PhD accounts on Twitter, you can’t help but see some excessive-seeming advice, endless lists of writing and productivity tips (some of which appear to have been cooked up by the same people who write bizarre sex tips for women’s magazines), and snark from sensible people like myself who don’t feel the need to work on our PhDs all the time.  I’ve had a ridiculously productive week this week.  I think that trip to Oxford really fired me up for getting an unprecedented amount of writing done.  However, some of my working practices would fill some people who make a living from giving PhD advice with horror.  I think the message here is: do whatever the hell works for you.

**1. I don’t work all the time.  **I’m constantly seeing people on Twitter ‘complaining’ (but probably showing off their ‘commitment’ to their PhDs by making themselves look like martyrs) that they have no time to breathe.  I regularly see tips involving getting up ridiculously early (I am emphatically _not _a morning person), or building PhD into leisure time (proofreading in TV ad breaks, anyone?).  No, no, no!

**2. I don’t work every day.  **I understand that someone who works full-time/part-time/isn’t funded would need to work on the weekends.  Someone with kids might get their work done in the evenings, while they’re in bed.  But advice like ‘work on your thesis every single day’ doesn’t help anyone.  If you already do that and that’s what you have to do to fit it around other stuff in your life, or because that’s what works for you, great.  If you treat your PhD like a job (like I do) and take weekends off, or just don’t feel like working some days, the last thing you need is someone telling you that’s not good enough.

Every single day.  Really?!

REALLY?!

**3. I don’t get rid of all distractions.  **It would be a pain in the backside to keep turning my internet connection on and off when I need to look up a reference or check I’m about to use the right word.  Looking at Facebook and emails for a few minutes or even seconds doesn’t send me off-task.  In fact, if I had all my notifications off, I’d probably spend the whole time wondering if I had any, which would possibly be more distracting.  Spot the millennial…

What my tabs generally look like while I’m working.

**4. I don’t always use any time management methods.  **I sometimes use pomodoro, it’s useful when I’m marking papers or need to do something tedious like coding for long periods.  However, I can happily read or write for ages without any sort of time structure.

**5. I spend my downtime doing unintellectual things.  **The ‘#acadowntime’ hashtag seems full of people doing things that seem an awful lot like work (cooking elaborate meals, learning foreign languages, reading ‘heavy’ books), while people like myself who spend weekends sleeping, reading crime novels, playing video games, and eating takeaways seem suspiciously under-represented.  Dammit, I’ll play GTA and Lego games all weekend if I want to.

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About Alice Violett

Reader of books, editor of web content, haver of PhD

Colchester, UK https://www.draliceviolett.com