1. Suffering from writer’s block? Take a break! Try taking a shower or a short walk, then come back to your writing with fresh eyes.


  1. Avoid burnout! While working on your dissertation, remember to give yourself a break every once in a while: read something for fun that’s outside of your field or watch some TV, and don’t feel guilty about it; this is your time to recharge.


  1. Give your eyes a break! Follow the 20-20-20 rule: remember to look away from your computer screen at least once every 20 minutes, and focus your eyes on a spot that’s about 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.


  1. Rest your eyes! If your eyes hurt from too much screen time, try covering your eyes with your hands – but keep your eyes open and “look into the darkness” – for a few seconds at a time to give your eyes a break.


  1. Dissertation-writing doesn’t always look like writing! Remember that reading and research are also parts of the writing process: don’t be hard on yourself if you only get some reading (but no writing) done on a particular day – you can count that reading time as time spent writing your dissertation!


  1. Seek out peer support! Check in with other students in your department or at your university who are also writing dissertations. Find out if they would want to form a dissertation writing group, or ask them about their favorite strategies for scheduling their time and getting work done.


  1. Prevent repetitive stress injuries and fatigue with ergonomics! Make sure that your desk set-up at home or in your office is not causing you harm: use a footrest if needed – a thick book or a yoga block will do – and make certain that your monitor is an arm’s length distance away from you, and is raised up enough so that the top third of the monitor is level with your eyes when you’re sitting up straight. (You may need to prop up your monitor with boxes or books, so that it’s higher up than your keyboard.)


  1. Remember to stretch! To avoid repetitive stress injuries from prolonged sitting at a computer, try to regularly stretch your arms up then out to the sides and down, while flexing your hands/wrists (either while standing or sitting). This will improve your circulation in your arms and hands and help prevent strain on your muscles, tendons, and nerves.


  1. Give your hands and arms a break! Try not to rest your hands on the keyboard or mouse while you are thinking; instead, rest them on your lap or stretch them up or out to the sides to give them a break.


  1. Nourish yourself! While writing your dissertation, be sure to give yourself plenty of breaks and stay hydrated: drink plenty of water or herbal tea, and keep some healthy snacks near your work area, like nuts or pre-sliced fruits and vegetables (slice up some extras the next time you take a break, so they’ll be ready to go when you need them, and you won’t be as tempted by other less nourishing convenient snacks).


  1. Don’t overdo it on the caffeine: if you can only handle so much coffee or black tea, try a different tea with less caffeine like a green tea, white tea, or herbal tea. If you want to wake up your brain without caffeine or sugar, try bending over to touch your toes with your head and neck relaxed (a “forward bend” or “forward fold” pose in yoga) – you can bend your knees and gently sway your upper body side to side.


  1. Small habits add up! Try to get into the habit of starting to work on your dissertation at the same time every day, even if your initial goal is just to write for 15 or 20 minutes daily. (But don’t get mad at yourself if something comes up and you miss a day; just pick up where you left off the next day!)


  1. No need to spend $1,000 on a top-of-the-line Standing Desk! Try alternating between sitting and standing for some variety in your day and less strain on your body – if you don’t have an adjustable desk, you can make a standing desk by stacking some cardboard boxes on top of a regular desk. You might need a low box under your keyboard/mouse, and a taller box under your monitor: your keyboard and mouse should be at or just below your elbow height, and the monitor should be much higher – the top third of your monitor should be level with your eyes. (When using a standing desk, it can help your posture and ease the strain on your legs, knees, and back if you bend one knee by propping up one foot at a time on a low footrest – if you don’t have a footrest, a thick book or a yoga block will do.)


  1. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed! Remember to break up your dissertation work into a series of smaller, more manageable tasks. Try focusing on reading only one article or writing only one section at a time.


  1. Multi-tasking is not all it’s cracked up to be! Instead of juggling all of your dissertation tasks at once and stressing yourself out, try setting a timer and focusing on only one task for 20-30 minutes at a time, then take a 5-minute break, and concentrate on a different task for the next 20-30 minutes after that.


  1. Receive (and implement) feedback gradually! Find out if your advisor or your committee would be willing to look at individual chapter drafts at earlier stages rather than waiting to show your committee the entire dissertation at once.


  1. Don’t get overwhelmed by feedback from your advisor or your committee – remember that you may not have to incorporate 100% of it, since this is, after all, your dissertation; just address their concerns as best you can.


  1. Focus on one task at a time! Split up larger projects into smaller, more specific types of tasks, and designate times to work on each one: try alternating reading/research days with writing days, or do one task in the morning and the other in the afternoon.


  1. There’s an app for that! To help you focus on avoiding multi-tasking and increasing productivity by only concentrating on one task at a time, there are many free apps out there, for your computer or phone, which have you focus on doing one continuous 25-minute chunk of work before taking a five-minute break.


  1. Make time for a hobby! Whether you prefer to work during the day and take evenings off, or whether you prefer taking the mornings off, set aside some time for something other than your research/dissertation, like cooking, exercise, or a hobby. Try making something tangible with your hands; this will give you a more concrete and immediate feeling of accomplishment, compared to your dissertation work. For example, cook yourself a nice meal, learn how to knit or play an instrument, or teach yourself photography, gardening, or woodworking.


  1. Get a chance of scenery! Experiment with working in a different place than usual, like a coffee shop or library, or a different part of your house, and mix up the music you listen to while working – try out something upbeat or maybe something without lyrics, like classical music.


  1. If you can’t get work done while listening to music, try out the website/app called Coffitivity: it lets you stream the ambient sounds of a coffee shop, which is thought to help people be more creative and productive.


  1. Give yourself a real weekend! Take either one or two days off from working on your dissertation each week – you’ll come back to it the next day feeling refreshed, reenergized, and more motivated.


  1. Get some face-time with your advisor! Set up weekly or monthly meetings with your advisor, even if s/he has not pressured you to do so – this will help you set smaller deadlines for yourself and continue to produce new sections of writing for your regular meetings; it will also give you the chance to get your advisor’s feedback earlier and more often, to make sure you’re both on the same page.


  1. Hold yourself accountable! Try telling your advisor or your committee members that they can expect to receive your next chapter or a particular section by a particular day – that will give you a deadline to work towards, and will help you get the work done on time.


  1. Don’t underestimate how long the writing process takes! Most people underestimate the time it will take them to finish a task – especially a complex, long-term project – by at least 30%! When you’re mapping out a timeline for writing your dissertation over several months, remember to leave yourself even more time than you think you’ll need, including plenty of time to revise each chapter and to implement feedback from your committee.


  1. Don’t leave formatting for the last minute! Check for your university’s dissertation formatting instructions early in the process; that way you can draft your dissertation with some of the basic formatting already taken care of, like margins, font size, headings, table/figure captions, and footnotes/endnotes.


  1. Don’t get derailed in pursuit of perfection! When you get stuck trying to choose the perfect word or draft the perfect sentence, just highlight that text in a different color (or type it in all caps, or leave yourself a comment in the margin) and continue with the rest of that page or paragraph, then come back to it again later, with fresh eyes. But don’t get hung up on perfecting just one spot or let it slow you down!


  1. Try taking up a new form of exercise to counteract all of the sitting and writing you will be doing during the dissertation process – it will also help take your mind off the dissertation to spend some time in physical movement, like yoga or running.


  1. Use an app or browser plug-in like Zotero or EasyBib to organize your sources and to give you a head start in formatting your references (Google Scholar can help generate formatted references, too) – just remember to double-check the automatically generated references to make sure they’re correct and not missing any key information.


  1. Write your introduction last! You might need to draft your first/introductory chapter early in the process, for the dissertation prospectus/proposal that you’ll show to your advisor/committee, but don’t agonize over polishing your introduction to perfection – once the rest of your chapters and your conclusion are drafted, you’ll likely need to go back to your introduction and make some changes there, to make everything consistent.


  1. Be strategic about your research! If you find a book or article that is perfectly relevant to your topic, or to part of your dissertation, make sure to check out the references/bibliography of that book/article to look for other sources that may be similarly relevant to your work.


  1. Be smart about your research! If you’re not finding enough sources using a particular set of search terms on your university library website, switch up the search terms, or search for work by a particular author, or try using the Google Scholar site to search instead (while signed into your university email/library account, to allow you access to articles that are “behind a paywall,” i.e., not free to view without your university’s subscription).


  1. Make use of Google Scholar! If you’re not sure how to format an in-text citation or bibliographic reference for a particular source, search online to see how others have done it: under a given result, Google Scholar will show a link for “Cited by ##” (e.g., “Cited by 189”, meaning cited by 189 other published works); you can click on this link to see results for those specific works. Some of them may be available to view online, if they’re open access (free), or if your university pays for your access, like if you’re signed into an account through your university email or library website.


  1. Make use of Google Books! Even if a source is not available online through your university library website, or through Google scholar, it may be fully or partially available through the Google Books site. Often Google Books will only let you preview a limited number of pages in a particular book, but you can use the search box on the left side of the screen to search for and jump to a particular name, phrase, or term. Google Books is also a good place to find publication information (to include in your References/Work Cited list), when you don’t have a physical copy of a book.


  1. Get outside! Make sure you get a chance to go outside during your weekends, or evenings, or even a 5-10 minute work break. This will give your eyes a chance to rest away from the computer screen, and will help you feel refreshed and more motivated when you come back to work.


  1. If you have eyestrain from doing too much reading or writing on the computer, try printing out one or two articles that are relevant to your research, or a draft of one chapter of your dissertation, then read it over and/or make notes on it on paper. This process might change your perspective and help generate new ideas for your writing and research, and might also ease eyestrain – you can print double-sided and recycle the paper afterwards to reduce your impact on the environment.


  1. Don’t forget to eat! Set aside time to cook for yourself, even if it’s not every night. For example, you may want to spend some time on your weekend preparing several meals at once – some that you can freeze, and some that you can store in your fridge – that way when you are really on a roll with your work later in the week, you’ll have something hearty and convenient that you can pop in the microwave so that you are still nourishing yourself even if you don’t feel that you have time to stop working.


  1. Don’t neglect your health! The process of writing your dissertation will be behind you at some point in the future, but it may have lasting negative effects if you have ignored or neglected to address repetitive stress injuries or other problems, such as with your eyes, neck, back, or general physical health due to poor eating habits, too much sitting, or lack of exercise – take care of yourself, make time for regular physicals and doctors’ appointments, and remember to reflect on what will be important to you 5 or 10 years from now, not just what you need to get done this week or this month.


  1. Done is good! Your dissertation doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to get done. After you get your degree, you can always revise your dissertation with the goal of turning it into a publishable book, or work with individual chapters to publish them as journal articles (and in the meantime, presenting individual chapters as papers at workshops or conferences can provide you with new perspectives and helpful feedback from peers and senior scholars). Let go of any perfectionism you might have and focus on what it will take to finish the dissertation.