It happens all too easily. One moment you're staring at your dissertation on your computer screen, trying to work through a tough sentence or idea. You think to yourself, “I'll just give myself a quick break and look at Facebook for a minute or two.” The next thing you know, an hour has passed. I call this the “social media drift” - where, without giving it much thought, I absentmindedly float over to Facebook or Twitter and lose myself in my friends' vacation photos. The distraction might relieve my dissertation writing-related stress for a moment, but when I realize how much time has passed and how I'm no closer to finishing my draft, it just causes more stress in the long run.

The internet provides us with an amazing range of resources that help make dissertation writing easier, from research databases, to online citation managers, to platforms that let us share drafts and ideas with colleagues around the world. It can lead us to professional dissertation editing services who can help writers at whatever stage they are in the process. But for all the good that it provides, the internet poses one huge problem for dissertation writers: it's an easily available source of distraction. Luckily, there are tools and software available that provide much-needed dissertation help bypreventing distraction and the social media drift.

Distraction-Blocking Software

Dissertation writers who need truly hardcore distraction blocking should try Freedom. Freedom is available for Windows, Mac, and Android for $10, and prevents users from accessing the internet for up to eight hours at a time. To restore internet access, you need to reboot your computer – and the effort of doing so is often enough to stop you from leaving your dissertation behind.

Dissertation writers looking for something more flexible can try Anti-Social or Cold Turkey. Anti-Social is from the same developers as Freedom, and allows users to block specific websites. You can, for instance, block Facebook or other social media sites, but keep work- and research-related sites available. You can get Anti-Social for Windows or Mac for $15, or in a $20 bundle that also includes Freedom.

Cold Turkey is available for Windows operating systems, and the free version of the program lets you set timed blocks on an unlimited number of websites. You can also organize websites into groups, and block a particular group of sites for a particular amount of time. The Pro version costs $14.99, and gives you more flexibility to set and schedule timers, and allows you to block applications and games you might have installed on your computer.

If you prefer a browser plug-in to software that works system-wide, try Leechblock. Leechblock is a Firefox plug-in that lets you block time-sucking websites for days and times of your choice.

Distraction-Free Word Processing

In addition to blocking software, there are several word processing programs available that can help to minimize distraction and keep you focused on your dissertation.

Force Draft is from the same developers as Cold Turkey. It's a text editor that won't allow you to exit the program until you reach whatever goal you set for the day. You can set both word-count goals and timed goals.

WriteRoom (available for Mac for $9.99) and DarkRoom (a Windows clone of WriteRoom, available by donation) are a little less extreme than Force Draft. These are minimalist, full-screen text editors, with no extra icons or clutter that might distract you from your dissertation. They don't allow you to do much in the way of text formatting, but instead encourage you to focus on writing your dissertation.

Of course, one of the best ways to stay motivated and to keep writing is having another person there to provide you with support. Thesis Editor's experienced dissertation consultants can do just that: they can provide personalized solutions to distraction and procrastination that fit with your working style.

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I wish to thank Thesis Editor Ltd and its staff for providing editorial and formatting services in support of finalising my doctoral thesis. These services were provided consistent with an agreed upon scope of work and timeframe. The quality of the work was excellent and the attention to detail was much appreciated. Without hesitation, I recommend anyone seeking support with their academic manuscript or other types of work products that require editorial review and formatting to speak with Dawn Leach, Director of Operations, Thesis Editor Ltd. I found Dawn to be very responsive and extremely helpful.

- Kevin G. Rattue , University of Oxford, January 2021

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