Easily Distracted? How to Focus On Writing the PhD Thesis

Following on from my previous post about what I’ve learnt from writing up my PhD thesis, writing up a PhD thesis is no easy task and requires years of hard work. The journey of writing up the PhD is never as linear as we would like it to be and involves overcoming a number of different challenges.

In view of this, I thought I would write a follow-up blog post regarding how I overcame one of the biggest problems of them all – getting easily distracted.

Like most PhD students when it comes to writing up the thesis, I too suffered from being easily distracted. There were times when I felt like I would find any excuse possible to not write something down and do something else instead. It was just one distraction after another.

In an attempt to help others in their writing-up journey, here are a few things which helped me to get through the writing-up period.

Break your work down into manageable chunks

Breaking my workload down into small parts helped me to tackle my thesis in easy-to-handle portions without being overwhelmed by the remaining work needed to complete the thesis. As a result, I found that I was less likely to procrastinate if I could complete a simple task that could be done in an afternoon or in the space of a few hours.

To achieve this, I found it helpful to block out parts of my calendar to focus on writing up specific sections. For example, if I was writing up the results section of a chapter, I would make a note of all the sections I would need to write and set them as labelled events in my calendar.

Alternatively, You could create a simple to-do list. I find there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing off items until there’s nothing left.

Set deadlines which are realistic and achievable

Following on from the previous point, I would use these “chunks” to help me work towards a set of miniature deadlines for when I would like to complete a section or chapter of the thesis.

To ensure that these deadlines were realistic and achievable, I had a simple rule where if I thought I could complete a piece of work in a set time (say a week), I would multiply it by four to ensure that I was less likely to exceed the deadline.

I found that by setting simple deadlines which I could achieve with relative ease, I would be more likely to complete other work sooner rather than later. Having a fixed deadline motivated me to get work done sooner which gave me more time towards the end for other tasks such as proofreading.

Don’t beat yourself up

Finally, one of the reasons why I struggled to get work done from being easily distracted was because I felt I was punishing myself for not being as organised as I would’ve liked to have been. I’ve noticed that this created a negative spiral where I would end up being less productive as a result.

It’s important not to beat yourself up if you don’t meet one of your deadlines or struggle to get the work done in your ideal time frame. Please remember not to take things too seriously and to go easy on yourself. Trust me, beating yourself up and punishing yourself will only make things worse.


There is no denying that writing up the thesis is a massive task and requires effort. As I mentioned before, writing up a PhD is not something that can be done overnight. It takes planning and preparation. Hopefully, the small pieces of advice provided in this blog post can help you overcome getting easily distracted.