My way to PhD thesis submission

Is this a good subject to start my Medium account? Who knows! What this article aims to do is firstly, to actually help me organise my thoughts and get whatever is on my mind out there and secondly to inform fellow PhD sufferers on their way of planning their thesis submission!

So, here I am two months and a half before my official submission date and eight months and a half before the date I will probably actually submit (as I am taking a thesis pending extension to make sure I am not drawn under my pile of papers, notes, post-its, word and excel documents). Let’s stick somewhere in between and say that it’s for sure my final six months before I submit. And what do I do now? Oh, well! REDEFINE MYSELF as a PhD student and academic writer. I will visually explain this to you…

This is my office today, Monday 13 August 2018. All the pieces of different paper you see, A3, A4, A5, things to do list, etc. are supposed to be my idea of how I am planning my thesis writing. You can see the absolute chaos that is going on. In my mind, all this time this was thought to be “thorough planning”. I considered myself to be a planning freak with all my to do lists and my colorful pens and my multiple digital notes on my laptop and smartphone. Today, I realised planning and me need to have a discussion about our relationship! Here is the detailed list of steps I followed to pull my self together and be proud of my thesis planning eventually!

  1. Some serious research (just an interesting way to procrastinate really) on how other phds have done it. A new world was opening up in front of my eyes. There is no wrong or right way to plan. It’s a personal thing, and each individual goes the way they like. But hey, look at all those Instagram PhDs with their fancy planners and stickers and post-its and pens (not sure I would prefer spending all this money to that stuff instead of keeping them for traveling after I submit). Btw, through my super brief exploration I found 0 males Instablogging about phd life and planning. Is it our thing? I am wondering! Probably, it’s my super quick investigation.
  2. Created my own PhD-related Instagram account (nothing to do with my personal account) under the title “The PhD Thesis Writing Life”. Yeh, I am happy with myself, this is how my life’s title would be if you asked me now. Posted my first picture with my laptop on one of our uni’s wooden tables by the lake (yeh, fancy campus we’ve got there). Followed all the people I found interesting and relevant to the subject and interacted with their community -tried to be a part of it; this will take a bit of time and dedication.
  3. Took one of my favorite recently bought, *unused*, notebooks and started writing. I am more of a digital notetaker, but I was inspired by this idea one of the instagrammers had: a notebook full of notes just for every chapter. In this way, you can go back to it even before viva and have a look at all your notes. Loved it. Might this need more time you ask? Yes, it will, but I will save time in the end from searching soulless digital notes in combination with my physical ones. I gathered all the information and notes I had stored in different sources in this one notebook. It took me 3 hours in total.
  4. I rearranged my whole desk setup. This included taking off my wall the things I do not need, and keeping all the things that make me happy when I look at. I even bought some new book ends! Getting rid of all the clutter I had at my side table by my desk and nicely organising it, just gave me the chills. Ah! This is pure serenity! Feeling ready and motivated to begin
  5. I blogged about it on Medium. I was always reading on Medium multiple articles on one million different things. I always wanted to write mine but as many others, I was intimidated to open my brains to the world. Well, “hello world”! I figured out I need a digital diary, even if it’s public -the more they see, the better, maybe I ‘ll get some feedback, maybe I’ ll inspire someone- in order to record the last six months of this miraculous adventure, known to be called “PhD Life”! This is my gift to myself, a reminescence, the heritage I will leave behind from these 4 difficult but sweet years, to which I would very much like to go back after 5 years and feel nostalgic about!
My desk is ready for some awesome work-from-home semester! All my notes filled the pages of this little notebook which will be used solely for the Design chapter I am now writing up!

Here you are, this is still work in progress but I am so happy with what I achieved today! In the beginning it looked like a total waste of time, like “oh look how nicely I procrastinate again today”! But eventually it was such a fruitful, productive process! I just feel all the motivation in the world now to start writing with a fresh attitude!

Don’t let PhD thesis writing get you down. Make the most of it! If one day seems not to be really productive just do something that will motivate you! I found how I will recharge batteries after I was writing a long chapter for the last three months! I was out of energy but now I just feel super hopeful and positive! I can’t actually wait to start shaping the next chapter!

Think how you can take advantage of low moments to reinvent yourself and start over, doing all the things you wish you had done in the previous PhD years! It is never too late! I said I was going to start a blog since day 1 of my PhD. I did it today after almost 4 years have passed and just 6 months before submitting. I am sure it will help me, and others in a similar situation!

Good luck, and don’t forget: you can do this!




If I wasn’t a user researcher, I would be a professional planner. IG: @ phdreflections

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Tatiana C. Styliari, PhD

If I wasn’t a user researcher, I would be a professional planner. IG: @ phdreflections