Schedule time tor writing, or reading. Schedule a specific “writing day”, so that everyone knows “Thursday’s are for writing”. Schedule a specific time slot for checking your emails each day – and then turn them off! Going somewhere new could help with this. Find a coffee shop to go to and check your emails, and then go to the place you find most productive to write. Different locations for different activities can work. Whilst I know these things are much easier said than done (and I am really not good at sticking with them) – what I do know is that when I do them, I find myself being so much more productive. I just don’t know how to make myself stick with it (… any tips are welcome!)
When it works, your schedule can be your best friend! And if it doesn’t go to plan (as I know too well), don’t worry – you can always start afresh tomorrow. But, as much as it is important to have a schedule, you need to learn to be flexible, too… in both doing a PhD, and being a parent! I have had so many things thrown at me along both of these journeys, that I have come to accept that nothing ever goes to plan! Expect the unexpected. All you can do is what works for you, and there is always possibility for change. Sometimes, you just have to throw the deadline out of your mind and focus on the here and now, what works for you, and what you can achieve, in that particular time.
A couple of specific scheduling techniques that have worked for me, are the Pomodoro technique, and attending “Shut Up and Write” sessions. If you are not familiar with thie Pomodoro technique, the idea is that you write (work) for 25 minutes without any interruptions, and set yourself a timer for this – this is known as a “Pomodoro”. When the 25 minutes are up, have a short break (e.g., 5 minutes), and then do another 25 minutes of writing. After you have completed 4 Pomodoros, you then give yourself a longer break (e.g., 30 minutes). When I get in the flow of doing this, I can get so much more writing done! Similarly, “Shut Up and Write” sessions are good for getting focused if you want to add a more social aspect to it, and motivate one another! Your University might hold sessions, you could set one up yourself, or find others online and have a virtual Shut Up and Write session (such as on the the “PhD and Early Career Researcher Parents” Facebook Group that I previously mentioned)!
I guess what I am saying in this post is that I find it works if you clearly divide your time. When you’re being mummy, it’s simply mummy time, with no attempts at trying to squeeze in some PhD work. When you’re working on your PhD, it’s work time. When you set time aside to write, you write. If it’s your scheduled time to check emails – check them only during this time!