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Get Busy Writing Your Thesis or Get Busy Dying

I've been chugging away at my thesis, sort of, in the sense that I feel like I've been treading water the entire time and have done absolutely nothing. In spite of this, my advisor thinks we're making great progress! We're almost done, he says. I struggle to believe this, but he's driving this bus, so I guess he's right?

My brain has difficulty with viewing tasks in terms of smaller chunks, I think, and as a result it seems to think about things in binary. I have not completely finished this task, so it is not done. Progress is an illusion. Oddly enough, this sort of thing doesn't lead to increased procrastination on my part (I do procrastinate sometimes, but not for this reason). I actually wonder if my workflow contributes to my inability to recognize when I've accomplished something.

The most efficient way for me to get something done is to start it ahead of time so I can afford to jump in and out of it at my leisure instead of trying to force myself to think for extended periods of time against my will. I also have to think about stuff for a while, so this way I can spend all my waking (and sleeping, sometimes) hours thinking about this task until I have an idea, at which point I go back and work on it. Repeat ad infinitum until task is done, hopefully. (I've never failed to do something for work. Personal stuff, on the other hand.)

I think the main issue here is that I can't manage to break tasks into smaller pieces. As noted above, this isn't an obstacle in terms of me doing said tasks, but it is an obstacle to me realizing that I'm making progress as I'm working on them. Writing one page of my thesis doesn't seem like much of anything as I'm doing it, but I did something. One page is definitely more than no pages. (I know this. I learned 1>0 at some point while studying number theory.) If I clean the bathroom, I did something even if I didn't get to the rest of the apartment.

Weirdly enough, teaching is one area where I do feel like I've been Doing Something. I suppose it's not weird at all when you think about it - I'm getting constant feedback from people who have no incentive to make me feel better about myself (if they wanted me drawn and quartered, they would be very clear about it), so if they say they're learning things and doing well on assignments, I'm pretty inclined to believe them! Unfortunately, I lack such external validation everywhere else. (I should believe my advisor too, but he's very nice, so there's enough room for doubt that my brain would prefer not to.)

I'm not really sure if there's any way for me to fix this outside of trying to consciously think about what I've accomplished. Writing it down for an ego boost could work, maybe? I thought about forcing myself to write a to-do list by breaking projects up into chunks, but I think that would still make me feel unproductive if I fail to discretize the chunks finely enough. Maybe we'll table that until after the conscious thinking stuff starts to work. I also think some degree of it is connected to my terminal impostor syndrome, but that's a completely different can of beans to open and I will not do that here.

I wrote 13 pages of my thesis since the end of last semester and now, which does seem a little more impressive than it did while I was in the trenches working on it. Even then, I still don't feel like I've done much. Hopefully that'll change by the time my defense rolls around in a few months, or my ego will be suffering greatly on the way in (which doesn't exactly make for a spectacular presentation).


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