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Friday, February 14, 2014

8 Days Till Derailment

Thesis Challenge, 開始! 
Thesis Ninja is ready to strike!

Getting on track:

The goal during my challenge is to not freak out, and (honestly) to spend as little time writing my paper as I need to. I've got a life, and a job besides writing this things, and I don't think sacrificing either is worth the stress it would cause me. The reality is that in order to finish a draft of my thesis paper, I have to complete ~70 pages over the next 60+ days. This shouldn't be too hard, considering Verne wrote about a character who covered the earth in 80. Actually, while typing this post I bought 《八十天環遊地球》for my Kindle App. The key, however, is staying on track, and making sure I put in the the correct amount of time per day to keep the pages churning. To do this, I'm using a Google Doc and Beemider


Beeminder helps you keep track of anything quantifiable, and tracks one's progress on a Yellow Brick Road. During my thesis writing process, I'm using it to track two things: 
  • # of pages per day
  • # of hours spent per day
To complete my 70 page goal by April 17th, I'll need to average 1.28 pages/ day to stay on my yellow brick road. On average, I can produce a page of Chinese text (12pt Biaukai) in one hour of solid writing. That is nothing... I spend more time than that per day using social media!
I need to average 1.28 pages per day to stay on track. Bring it! 
Writing my thesis means more than just putting characters on a page. I also need to check sources, read other abstracts, look-up formatting and a lot of other stuff I hate, so I figure the best way to guarantee that I can write 1.28 pages per day, is to insure that I create the necessary time per day to make it happen. For this, I'm also using Beeminder. Only, I'm tracking raw hours that are put toward "Thesis work/ Day." My goal here is 23 hours per week, or a little more than four hours per day, five days a week. Very doable. 

Google Spreadsheet:

 The other way that I'll be tracking my work is through a custom Google Spreadsheet. It's based on the one I use for work, where it tracks start and end time, week total, all time total, etc., but I've modded it to track my Chinese studies, and also track different types of focused productivity: Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, Hand-Writing & Other. It's not dedicated to my thesis, but will serve for now. Especially since I need to be thinking about my upcoming TOCFL test... so 「一石兩鳥」and all that jazz! 

Track my entire study routine here!
The bonus of using a system like this, is that at a glance I can see how I'm allocating the "thesis work" time. In order to produce 1.28 pages per day. I'll need to spend at least 1.5 hours doing solid writing. As I finish up my Lit. Review, I should also be spending around one hour reading similar works (more on that tomorrow). I can track that with 讀 (2).

Currently Public 

I've created a Thesis Open-Source folder for anyone interested in checking it out. It currently contains a really outdated Master List of the papers I was reading, my Study Time Tracker, some Raw Data from Skritter, and a ton of other materials and papers I've collected along the way. I'll start adding my actual thesis to this folder tomorrow or Sunday.


  1. Jake,

    Good luck!

    I remember being in a similar situation for my masters thesis... I made a schedule of writing 1000 characters every night, Mon-Thurs, then taking Friday off, then writing 3000 characters over Saturday and Sunday.

    I wanna say I did that for 6 weeks? Maybe 8? I forget. Anyway, I stuck to it, and my paper got done. I was the only one of my advisor's students who actually finished a first draft on time! (And the rest were Chinese students, which I guess explains how they knew the initial deadline was a fake deadline and I didn't...)

    It's a bit of a slog, but it's doable. 加油!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, John! I like that you quantified the total number of characters for a given day. The weekend sounds intense, at first glance, but 3000 characters isn't so bad, especially once one gets past the Lit Review. That's where I'm a bit stuck right now, since everything seems relevant, but I can only realistically write around 20 pages of content.

    Glad to hear that what I'm doing is possible, and that others have done it in the past. The slog sucks, but you just gotta keep trudging along, right?



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