Thesising at Christmas

December is now well and truly upon us, which means that we are bombarded with twinkly trees, chocolate overdoses and songs with too many jingly bells. For those of us working on a thesis over the festive period, it can be hard not to get distracted by all the shiny lights, family gatherings, pub trips, and the dreaded Christmas shopping. If, like me, you have trouble getting into a cheery mood with the weight of a thesis on your shoulders, I have some tips on how to combine some common festive traditions with writing up your thesis.

Festive tunes

Yes, Christmas songs are overplayed and, dare I say it, overrated *gasp* – but we all have our guilty pleasures, our favourite Christmas songs. Whether they’re the classics (Slade, Band Aid, Wham!, Bing Crosby, The Pogues), the pop ones that have emerged over the last few years (Justin Bieber, Sam Smith, Arianda Grande, Sia… I’m going to stop there as I had to actually Google these) or my personal favourites, metal Christmas songs (Korn, Christopher Lee, AC/DC) – if you’re working on your thesis at home, crank these up to full volume and you’ll be feeling festive in no time! Plus there’s the bonus that you can warble loudly and (hopefully) no-one will hear you. If you’re still working in the lab, why not pop the tunes on anyway and entertain/annoy your co-workers (and maybe hum along under your breath). Just be careful when proofreading to look out for accidental additions of ‘snow’, ‘Christmas’, ‘merry’ and ‘reindeer’ which have travelled from your now music-filled ears to your madly typing fingers, bypassing your overworked brain.

Christmas clothing

PhDs generally don’t pay amazingly well. So if like me you’re stuck at home writing up your thesis but don’t want to spend too much money on heating your room/flat/house/mansion/castle, this is the perfect opportunity to sport ALL your Christmas jumpers at once. And we all know that most heat escapes through your head, so why not wear a Christmas hat too, to really up the festive feels. I’d go so far as to suggest cosy mittens, but it turns out it’s [reytyt hatrfd ro trpye worh rhem pn. For maximum thesis coherence, perhaps sacrifice some digit warmth and stick to fingerless gloves. Bonus points of course if they are covered in reindeers or Christmas trees, and double bonus points if they’re also hand-knitted and vaguely hideous.

(Clicking on this image takes you to our new Clutter store where you can buy this cartoon in Christmas card form!)

Decorations

Fairy lights can be the perfect way to cosy-up your workspace AND make you feel festive at the same time, plus this time of year is great to buy them as they’re usually on offer. You could go for classic white/yellow lights, blue, or green, or maybe red… though perhaps this is the wrong sort of vibe. (One tip though – if they’re the kind that have all the different twinkling options, keep the plug away from your feet. My plug sockets are under my desk, and I accidentally tapped the function button with my toe… my eyes were very not prepared for sudden strobing fairy lights.)

There’s all sorts of novelty festive pens you can use to write up notes (again, warnings on the crazy flashing ones), and Christmassy wallpapers to put on your computer. Just try avoid those ones with a countdown calendar so you’re not constantly freaking out about how little time you have to get your thesis finished AND Christmas shopping done.

And of course there’s the classic tinsel-around-your-computer-screen look. If you get that really chunky tinsel, you have the added perk of not being able to see what you’re writing at the start and end of a line, for maximum thesis surprise.

Food and drink

A big part of Christmas is eating loads of rich, tasty food that you wouldn’t normally indulge in during the rest of the year. Sausage rolls, mince pies, pigs in blankets, fistfuls of chocolates… the choices are endless and the guilt for shovelling as much of them into your face as possible is definitely lowest at this time of year. So make the most of it!

How about mince pie rewards? You could promise yourself a mince pie for every, say 1,000 words you write. Or even every 100 words… it’s Christmas after all! Or perhaps some kind of tiered system with your favourite festive foods: Every 50 words deserves one Quality Street (other chocolate brands are available); every 100 words is a mince pie; for 500 words written you get a turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich; and for every 1,000 words you can pour yourself a generous brandy. Let’s hope you’re not having a writing streak… by 5,000 words you’re going to be very full and quite tipsshy.

That brings us onto the subject of Christmassy drinks. Both alcoholic and non, there are loads to pick from. In the mornings, most people enjoy a hot drink to accompany them at their desks, especially in the winter months, and there are plenty of ways to festive them up – try a chai tea instead of normal tea, sprinkle cinnamon in your hot chocolate (delicious), and why not whip yourself up a hazelnut latte at home instead of that usual superstrong black coffee.

As the nights draw in and you’re madly typing away about awesome science as it gets dark, December can be a perfect time to opt for something a little stronger to accompany your writing, if you so desire. Brandy is probably a bold choice if you want your words to actually make sense, but a glass (or two, or three) of port always goes down well. Everyone knows that writing is easier and, erm, more ‘creative’ if you enjoy a fortified desk wine.


So if you’re a bit of a bah humbug like me and resent your thesis work colliding with the festive season, why not try out some or all of these tips to get the Christmas cheer flowing. As well as making you feel more festive, the port stains and mince pie crumbs on the hard copy of your thesis also serve to show your examiners that you are extremely capable of multitasking.

If you want to share the sciencey festive spirit with your friends and loved ones, why not grab yourself some of our new science-themed cartoon Christmas cards? Visit the Clutter store to browse and purchase!

Michelle Reeve

Michelle is the host of Clutter, and a recovering spider scientist. She now does a whole bunch of science communication things, and still regularly wrangles arachnids.

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