Surviving your PhD write-up

Writing up a PhD dissertation is hell. I know, I've been there. I've written a dissertation also. It can be the single worst period of your life. But if you have made it this far, then there is unfortunately no turning back. You must write it. Here are some suggestions to help make the process more bearable.

Before you begin

  1. Compile a list of things you enjoy and what makes you feel relaxed.
  2. Collect cute quotes for the start of your chapters.
  3. Say goodbye to friends and loved ones.

During the write-up

  1. Make a plan. It takes lots of time and comes in handy for making you feel depressed about your lack of progress.
    I managed to finish exactly 6 months after the finish day on my plan.
  2. Ensure that your living and working environment are as clean as you normally have them. Otherwise they will be a source of endless frustration.
  3. Do not do revisions online. Print the relevant pages out, mark up the corrections in your favourite pen colour, and then incorporate the changes. This is more efficient because you can ignore the text which you have not marked up.
    Sorry that this one isn't funny.
  4. Rest, exercise, get massages, and generally take care of yourself.
  5. You may feel the urge to add just one more chapter. Don't.
    60 page chapters are not acceptable either.
  6. Deal with RSI pain immediately. It is emotionally destructive and will only get worse.
    I used a combination of acupuncture, osteopathy, and Belgian beer.
  7. Spend time with friends who are either sympathetic or are good distractions, preferably the latter.
  8. Do not begin relationships. You are not human.
  9. Avoid the vicious cycle of skimping on sleep and relaxation to make-up for an unproductive day, which results in further unproductively, which compels you to work harder with less sleep, ...
    Stop the cycle. Take the evening off, turn off the alarm clock, and get a good night's sleep.
  10. Every now and again take time to relax and enjoy yourself.
    Consult the list you created in Step 1.
    Belgian beers are useful. Hoegaarden Grand Cru helped me.
  11. Going to conferences is a bad idea.
    They invariably inspire new ideas, something you don't need right now.
  12. You are more effective when your brain is switched off.
  13. Use stress to get through the boring bits.
    Save them for last.
  14. Do not look out the window.
    The weather will invariably be beautiful and lots of Dutch girl will be riding by on their bicycles.
    This is a depressing sight for someone trapped behind a computer.
  15. Now is not the time to learn to juggle 5 balls.
  16. Avoid where possible taking a job until you are really really close to finishing (or actually finished).
  17. If you do happen to start a job, find as many full days as you can to work on the thesis, without running yourself into the ground.
  18. Do not write web pages like this until you have actually submitted.
  19. At some point you have to throw in the towel and say, "That's enough."
    Ensure that you have finished before reaching this point.

And when you do finish:

  1. Congratulate yourself. You deserve it. Belgian beers help here also.
  2. Apologise to everybody you know while they congratulate you. 
    Ensure that they pay for the beer.
    Make them call you Doctor for practice.
  3. Gloat.
    Say that it only took you 2 years to complete and that the write-up took only 6 weeks.

Any further hints or suggestions are welcome.