How I Deal with My Thesis Life


When I wrote about the process of me surviving the bachelor thesis, I wrote it after I finished and graduated. But this post is written when I am working on my master thesis, just because I think it feels more actual to write at the time I experience it (or because I want to escape it for a while...). Not sure if you can call this one tips on how to survive your thesis - it's more about how I manage my thesis life as well as where and with whom I spend my time during this period. Here is the story of my current thesis life.

Taking notes: 1 for random notes, 1 for summarizing, 1 for administration + 1 monthly schedule
What is a student without a notebook? During thesis time, I use three notebooks and one monthly schedule. The first is a notebook for drafting anything in my mind. I also use it when I have a consultation with sensei. For summarizing, I found it easier to use a loose-leaf organizer, just because you can divide the part and you can move the paper from one part to another. Thus it feels easier to find one topic at the time you need it. For scheduling, a monthly schedule book works just fine for me. I bought another book just because the cover is cute (duh). I use it to track my progress and to take notes about administrative things.. which actually can be merged with the random notes if you are not a perfectionist who often tempted with cute books like me.

Mapping the idea and progress track: sticky notes
As a visual person, I like to see everything written down. Thus, I use sticky notes to map the idea in my mind. I also use it to track my progress or to save quotes that I read in papers. You will see at least one sticky note in my laptop for weekly progress track and lots of sticky notes on my wall for saving anything that I think important and related to my thesis. I use bright colors to trigger a happy mood and use post-it brand because they stick better than the others.

Time management: start before 1 pm, end before 1 am
Since I am more a morning/afternoon person rather than a midnight owl, I usually start my work shortly after lunch time. If I start late - say, at 5 pm - my mood is gone already.  I will have my break around 4:30 pm for praying as well as snacking (sometimes.. eh, most of the time). My dinner time break will be at 7 pm, and if it's deadline time usually I continue to work from 9 pm to 1 am at maximum. When Rizky was around, I asked him to stop me around midnight because if not I will be overwhelmed with my own energy. I am more like energy spikes instead of constant flow, thus when 'I feel like doing it' I will forget everything and stick to my work until it's finish. However, from my experience, by doing this I ended up lose my mood to do anything related to thesis after my previous target finished. My energy was drained and it takes a time to start to work on new target. This is the tricky thing about time management: you should not spend your energy too much in one/two days just because you are on fire. Limit your thesis-working time by set several small goals, thus you will have thesis progress every day.

GSGES lounge
The first place that I often use to work is GSGES lounge. It is because I spend my time mostly in Yoshida Campus, but here I don't have a laboratory. Thus, GSGES lounge becomes my destination to work. The benefit of working here is that I can eat and drink freely, wi-fi and electricity available, and  I don't need to go anywhere to do praying since the lounge itself is often used as a praying space. However, since this lounge was often used together with other Indonesian - from working thesis to dance practice - when you work alone here sometimes it feels lonely.

Kyoto University Library
Since GSGES lounge makes me feel lonely, I moved to KU Library. Here, wi-fi is available but the electrical plug is only available in several tables. When I came later than 3 pm usually all seats with electrical plug is fully seated. The library space is comfortable for me to work because it has this quiet working ambiance. I feel like I have lots of friends working and fighting for their academic - despite the fact that I don't really know what they are actually doing with their computers :p Unfortunately here I can't eat, but to drink is allowed. For praying, there is a praying space nearby the library which located inside the International Student Mobile Division (ISMD) building. To keep my place during the praying time I usually just left my things on the desk.. because here is considerably safe to do so. However, electronics and wallet are always with me, though.

Laboratory student lounge
Even though I spend most of my time in Yoshida Campus but I will go to my laboratory in Katsura Campus at least once a week. The terms "laboratory" here in Japan does not necessarily mean a space with experimental equipment. Each laboratory here has their own student lounge, where every student has their own table with their own computer. Despite the provided internet, electricity, and space for praying here, I rarely stay in my lab because I feel a different state of work with others. Most of my lab mates work in the basement doing an experiment, thus in student lounge usually they having a chit-chat with others, playing play station, or cooking. Sometimes, people are working with computers, but as far as my observation it is rarely happening at the same time. Thus, even though I love my lab mates, my space in the lab does not feel really productive for me to work.

Starbucks Cafe
Photo: Rizky Ramadhan
Last but not least is the fancy place that I will come to when I get bored with campus life: Starbucks cafe at Okazaki Park. The place is really comfortable with books around (because it is merged with Tsutaya, Japanese bookstore), and there is one long table with an electrical plug for each chair. It also has free wi-fi, of course. However, for praying you should do it in seating mode because they don't have special space.

Ghibli Soundtrack, Christabel Annora, Maliq &d'essentials, Ohashi Trio
Everyone has their own preference in terms of music that they play during working. For me, I prefer a calm music with light-beat. However, I usually play music only at the time when I don't really need to think. For example, when I do repeated calculation with excel, or when I classify things. I don't play any music when I need to think: when I analyze the result of the data and when I write my analysis in a thesis paper. Some music that accompanies me during my thesis time is Christabel Annora, Maliq & d'essentials, Ohashi Trio, and Ghibli Soundtrack. The first two are Indonesian musician with pop-jazz influence. I play it to trigger happy mood and to calm myself once in a while. The last one is Japanese musician, also with a jazz influence. His voice is calm, the beat of his music is light. It's just perfect to help you concentrate. However, for a deeper focus, I play Ghibli Soundtrack - piano version.

Those who accompany you during your hardest days
As I mentioned before, and I will mention here again: having a partner when working on your thesis is important because you can keep each other on the right track (not on YouTube or Facebook track). For me, I am lucky to have Rizky around, even when he is not working on his dissertation he will just read a book beside me. Other than Rizky I sometimes work with Rika - but I found we are working efficiently together only at the deadline time. Anyway today I have no one accompanying me, so I ended up writing a blog post instead :p

Closing Remarks
Working on something that takes you lots of energy to think needs a good management, a good place, a good music, and a good partner to be with. For those who are fighting for their graduation like me, take this master thesis as a challenge we should accomplish instead of a problem we should solve. Let's do our best!

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