Stress is induced by the time-crunch, the nearing of some inevitable reveal that you feel hopelessly unready for. Recounting his honours journey, Alexander notes:
If it were not for that nervous feeling that my time was coming I would not have felt nearly motivated enough to work regularly on a thesis due in a year. One of such ‘friendly’ reminders that my judgement day was nearing was the schedule I created for myself in September… and again in November … and once more in February (after the RQDA ‘catastrophe’). The schedule was an initially naive draft of when I would complete each section of my thesis: starting with refining the research question, then conducting the literature review, then assembling data, analyzing data, writing about said data, and finally the discussion and conclusion. My initial schedule was broad, and rarely noted the specific days that I would work on these sections. It was, however, later complemented by a weekly agenda, where I noted the readings I needed to do (for all my classes) and the particular sections of my thesis that I wanted to get done.
involves the process of determining needs, setting goals to achieve these needs, and prioritizing and planning tasks required to achieve these goals (Claessens, van Eerde, Rutte, & Roe, 2007). In setting your goals, it might be helpful to adopt the (Macleod, 2012):
- Specific (clear, simple, significant)
- Measurable (the ability to track progress )
- Achievable (attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic, results-based)
- Timebound (time sensitive)
- Engaging (be involved)
- Rewarding (incentivize yourself)
There is of course no uniform way to do this, precisely because these tasks must be sensitive to the very non-conformist entity that is your reality. This flexibility, however, must be tempered with a good-natured rigidity. Think of the schedule as a loving but stern parent… which you gave birth to. The schedule plays a disciplinary and nurturing role. The goal is to make you aware of the steps that need to be taken in order to mitigate the scenario in which you must take on all or a lot of the stress at once. A good schedule, like any regulator, ought to protect you from that scenario by creating small, clear, realistic steps towards your goal. See Table 4.2 for a sample macro outline of how you could set targets for your thesis completion. Adapt it as necessary to suit your working habit, lifestyle and goals.
|Table 2.3 - Illustration of an Undergraduate Project Timeline|
|Write and submit ethics application||X|
|Research and write the literature review||X||X|
|(Recruitment and) Data collection||X||X|
|Write up results||X|
|Edit and submit final paper||X||X|
An important way to balance rigidity and flexibility is to divide your scheduling into a micro and a macro model. The can be the shallow but effective overarching goals you want to achieve (likely by the month). Common macro goals could include “finishing the literature review,” or “read all your media articles and create the first set of codes.” The macro model will serve as the basis of reflection when asking: “Am I fulfilling the larger purpose of my thesis”? This model can likewise be reassurance that all the little micro stuff will add up to something.
The will be the small, tangible tasks that can be achieved weekly in order to meet your macro goals. The capitalists know this process fairly well. As Henry Ford famously put it: “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” This means thinking carefully about the short-term goals involved in creating your broader goal (the thesis or research project) and setting aside times (which you trust to get work done in) to complete that task. With this in mind, it is important that your schedule does not stay broad. It must specify parts of your thesis which can be realistically completed early on.
|Table 4.1 - Sample Micro-Schedule|
|The Month of December
(Focus on specific time or section of thesis).
|Main Task: The Methods Section and Self-Care over Break||Dec-Jan|
|Select and Summarize my method||Dec 1st - 5th|
|Set boundaries for my data and write of potential difficulties||Dec 5th - 10th|
|REST BREAK||Dec 10th - 12th|
|Summarize the instruments and measures used||Dec 13th - 15th|
|Outline the procedure||Dec 15th - 17th|
|Figure out and discuss the data analysis method||Dec 17th - 20th|
|REST BREAK||Dec 21st - 30th|
|Rewrite and revise methods section||Jan 1st|
|Self-Care before the second semester -
Pick a mindfulness strategy and revise your larger tasks for the second semester
Check in with other students on their progress.
Note, based on your past progress, which goals will be the most exhausting and allow yourself maximum time to achieve those tasks when outlining your next schedule.
|Jan 1st - 15th|
A way to facilitate conversation between our micro and macro-scheduling is through research journaling. Many undergraduate researchers use journaling to regularly keep track of their progress and the new obstacles which arose.
UBC Sociology Honours Student (2021), Alexander explains:
[Journaling] for me, since a lot of new obstacles that I could not have predicted got in the way of my ridiculously broad schedules. Whenever I came to a crossroads in my research, be it for my own ethical considerations, a problem in my methods or data analysis, seeking to answer a different gap in the field, I would note it down in my green five-star note-book. (It was often merely a scribble with the date above; sometimes, especially when I was tired, it would be reduced to mere acronyms or half-gibberish: “Remem Avg Uber Driv Income”). I suggest you try to do the same, as it will enliven your schedule to be sensitive to every twist in the research process (and there are many).
On a final note, remember to account for plenty of rest. A schedule which exhausts and causes excessive stress/burnout is defeating the very purpose that it was created for. Instead, make sure to account for your own feelings of exhaustion and consider times of rest and recuperation when drafting your schedule. This might include, I don’t know… weekends?
The process of determining needs, setting goals to achieve these needs, and prioritizing and planning tasks required to achieve these goals
Goal setting technique to ensure that your plans are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound, engaging and rewarding (see MacLeod, 2012).
Identifying and making plans to address goals that address milestone components in a project, usually over a relatively longer time horizon (e.g. monthly).
Identifying and making plans to address goals that address small tasks in a project, usually over a relatively shorter time horizon (e.g. weekly or daily).