How I made it through in “just” five years!

By Deirdre Lynch, PhD, MIEI.

For me, a big part of the challenge was mental. The idea of completing a PhD thesis was so overwhelming to me I could not comprehend ever finishing it. The task was too huge, I could just not see myself completing it.

Then a friend told me about a technique she was using for weight loss. She would write her goal as if it were the current reality e.g. “today I weigh X, it is great because Y” rather than “when I weigh X it will be great because Y”. Putting it in the present tense made it more of a reality. She wrote these goals every day and it became achievable. She believed it could happen and it did.

So I decided to do the same. I bought a journal and wrote the following:

“Today I have finished my PhD, it is great because….”

I kept writing iterations of this every day and 3 months later I had my first draft ready.


Of course, there were other aspects involved too!

I kept a very detailed to-do list and crossed everything off when I finished at the end of each day. I had listed all the sections involved and what aspects I needed to cover, e.g. what was left to finish in the methods section, which references to check, the images to import, and so on. The detail helped me to gain more of a sense of completion rather than putting general tasks like “finish chapter 5” on the list.

I was lucky to have a study buddy who was also in the process of writing up; we kept each other sane over instant noodles in the common room; and I also moved back in with my parents, who kept me fed and in clean clothes which was definitely welcome.


The first step for me was believing I could do it. You can too!


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