I fucking took 5 years to finish my master's program. The coursework was done in 2 years. I started searching for thesis advisors and had one settled after the first semester.
Most people who started looking for one didn't even start until the last semester of school.
1) Monkey approach - grab whatever is closest, work it.
Imagine you are a monkey stuck in the mud. It is seeping around you and you want out. What do you do? Grab the closest branch and start working your way out.
You do not discuss whether this branch of this branch would be optimal. Or wait and do a little more searching for a nicer branch to grow. But what you really need is a rope That would be PERFECT. Maybe just wait until a person comes by with a rope, keep searching around until you come across one.
Just fucking pull.
2) Avoid getting stuck on process.
The fucking thing about process is that it works for some people.
Their process might not work for you.
So if you think the Methods section seems easiest to pin down, but everyone is telling you to do the background section perfectly first and that is how everyone does it, then just do the Methods section.
3) Keep a journal. Keep a thesis.
Every day you keep a journal.
There are two documents. One is a journal. The other is the thesis.
At the end of the process, you will have one completed thesis and one completed journal.
How does this work?
Without a journal, you take time to figure out where you were yesterday. And you end up retracing old ground. A journal lets you open your computer and start exactly where you left off yesterday, right away. You might only have 1 hr to work on it in the morning. And spending 5 minutes 'booting up' is a lot better than fiddling around a bunch of documents for twenty minutes.
Another thing is you can write tasks to complete the next day. That is key as well. It is connecting your thinking and your work.
4) Take charge of yourself
This project could be the hardest thing you do because you are in charge of yourself.
I am not motivated by money or status or whatever. I am motivated by things that are pertinent to me. Like freedom.
Freedom is something I am working for.
5) Connect it to something that matters.
I cared a little about ridicule, but mostly, I was not sure how this LARGE task connected with anything I wanted.
What was the point?
Obviously it was better to finish it.
But I made it clear. This degree would set my career on firm ground. An accomplished epidemiologist who did not complete their MPH? Well even if they did a bunch of stuff, there is kind of a blight on their record. Did they get everything done? Sure. But do YOU want that to be your record? I did not. I had dropped out of medical school already.
Finishing something is key.
More practically, finishing my degree would allow me to put MPH after my name. It would remove so much stress and angst. I had to finish it soon. And I could find a way to make it fun and interesting.
Two things that drive me are accomplishment and recognition for accomplishment. These can be removed, further pared down, to just accomplishment.
And then further pared down to just happiness. Which is the actual goal.
However, for now, I wanted to complete the thesis for myself because it would improve my future.
It would allow me to consult if I wanted to. Although I already could, I could do it better at a higher rate.
Right now, I was stuck in my job because they let me go on without completing my thesis. Another job also proferred me an offer, a huge one, but I turned it down partly because I thought it would interfere with a lot of things.
6) Realize that you do want to complete your thesis, but skill is one thing holding you back.
At the core, I wanted to complete the thesis, I just did not know how and I was not skilled enough to do it. See that is the wrong thinking.
Skill is a skill, not permanent.
You need to improve your skill, and it is simple, and probably not that difficult either.
Fuck man. It sucks to know you are smart and then come across this task that just kicks you in the balls everyday and you lose your way and end up with nothing and just go on youtube or something as a solace.
Work is the only way through work. And the only way to get to work is to let go of ego and the ay to do that is to just realize that feeing dumb and frustrated is part of improving yourself. Embrace that.
And why did that matter?
Because having money is a tool. And although not motivated by earning piles of cash (I would argue no one 'really' is), well, I wanted to not have to work.
And this was a step on that scale.