Gamify it

I’ve been planning and chinking away at writing up the last three years of work into a coherent thesis in the last 6 months or so. It’s very interesting to look back at the reams of planning documents, literature reviews and interim results documents I’ve produced over this time!

Knowing what and how much to write on each topic is a bit of a dark art however; the initial targets I’ve set are very loose, but I think important to form some sort of structure to grow the report into. As a bit of a tongue-in-cheek joke I produced some ‘progress bar’ style bar charts, one for each chapter planned for the final report and have been updating day on day. The satisfaction gained from seeing them creep up has actually been surprisingly effective in getting me into a writing mode each day!

I’ve gone with a traffic light colour palette, the top bar indicates how many words I planned to write, the second the word count to date and the bottom the upper limit I’ve set myself. I know obsessing over word count is a massive waste of time, and I don’t worry about them too much at all, but couldn’t pass up an opportunity for some opportunistic data visualization!

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Standard summary report I’ve been producing

Writing blues

After having been ill the last week and a half I’m currently trying to get back into the swing of writing, which I find is largely the hardest part of research where really it doesn’t/shouldn’t need to be. One thing in particular I find very difficult is starting – I often pore over the first words/sentence for a very long time when I do sit down to write.

One forward step I’ve come to in an attempt to mitigate this is to give myself as many opportunities as possible to start writing. While obviously this could involve carrying a pen and paper around everywhere and waiting for inspiration to hit, I think the practicalities of translating esoteric squiggles and keeping the notes in decent order a bit beyond me, so I rarely give it a proper go.

Enter the bluetooth keyboard, a product recommended to me by my supervisor to ensuring you can start taking notes/writing wherever you are. I was skeptical at first, due to the variable key size and slight faff of connecting via bluetooth to my phone, but after giving it a couple of hours on a recent visit to the RGS I was sold. Currently I’m typing up a version of this blog post on my phone sitting on a train from Holyhead to Chester on the way back to London. I’m getting great pleasure from watching the trees go by after every few sentences!

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Product photo from Microsoft’s site

While I know this entry will read like an advertorial, that isn’t the intention, I’m just very wary of the summer’s PhD writing ahead, and am glad to have an excuse to do the lion’s share sitting in a park rather than in my stuffy office! For now, back to writing, though I’m preparing a more technical blog post which should be finished later tomorrow.

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Spotted from the train in Wales