Sometimes when I’m trying to start working, I get this fluttery feeling. Sometimes that feeling makes me want to clean something, sometimes it makes me want to find comics to read on the internet, sometimes I want to call a friend, and sometimes I want to play a computer game.

“Just for a minute,” I say to myself. “Just to clear my head and calm me down.”

What happens next is embarrassing. With each successive game, I get more and more agitated, telling myself I just need to win one more time and then I’ll get back to work. All the while I’m more and more alarmed at how much time is passing. “Oh, sh**! 3:00 already!”

So I’ve started a new ritual to deal with the flutters. It’s very simple–I’m not into incense or mantras or meditation, though I don’t see any problem with using those techniques to get in the mood for working. All I mean by ritual is that I do the same thing ever day before starting work, to calm me down and get me focused on the task at hand.

I read five pages of The Craft of Research. It’s a guide to writing that I enjoy reading. It’s clearly written, infused with a you-can-do-it! attitude, and relevant to what I’m trying to accomplish.  I think reading anything that you like, that you think is well-written, could be great–even if it wasn’t related to your dissertation specifically. It should be something you know well (this ritual should not be suspenseful), something you like, and, most importantly, something that doesn’t spark any wild emotions.


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