Writing dissertation is a tough challenge. I had written a dissertation for my undergraduate study, however, it is completely different this time. From the time that I have to finish the dissertation (I got a whole year to finish it and for now, I only have 3 months), the style of the dissertation (I did technical stuff, not conceptual) and last, the amount of papers that I need to read (it’s a lot). In order to finish it in time, I’ve got some tools to keep me in track and force myself to focus on the dissertation instead of watching Netflix or browsing Reddit. I’m not saying that the tools are perfect and it will always keep us in track (it comes back to our inner motivation), but when we already have the basic motivation, it will increase it to the next level by providing the support we need.

I’m not going to list the usual stuffs that I use like Word for writing and Chrome to find stuff, you already know that. It’s not a long list and I will sort it based on the most important tool. You don’t need to worry about price because all the tools that I list here at free, or at least you can use the free version. One more thing, some of the tools are for Mac, but I guess you can find the Windows version of it, or if it’s not available, I believe there are other tools that do the same thing.


My Mendeley Paper List

My Mendeley Paper List

Use for: Papers management, reading, referencing | Download: here

Mendeley is the most important tool for writing dissertation and it really deserves it. If you are like me, having lots of papers to read and have trouble managing those papers (double files, can’t find the papers you are looking for) then Mendeley is the anwer. I found Mendeley from one of my friend (Hi Mas Kiki) who told me about this cool thing that some of his friends use to manage their papers. Funnily though, the first time I tried it, I was not impressed with this tool and I could not understand why people love it. I installed it and leave it there, that was it.

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It’s difficult to know the title of the paper without opening the file

The main problem for me back then was that the sync feature from this tool was not working. The first thing that I did when I use this tool was importing the folder where I have all my papers and the big problem was that every time I have new papers on this particular folder, it would not show up on Mendeley. It drove me crazy because I have to import the folder again and again to be able to get the most updated version of my folder. I felt that this tool was not efficient at all and so I was not using it again.

About two weeks ago, I gave a second look to this tool and thought that maybe I can solve the problem that I had before. Turns out the solution was so simple and I blame the UX for this. Back then, I was thinking that the sync feature is activated by pressing the sync button on Mendeley, it was wrong. In order to get your Mendeley files to always sync with your folder, you need to click the Watch Folder option under File menu. That’s it, simple. Upon finding this solution and solve my big problem, I found more cool things that I can do using Mendeley and it is now become my best friend. I’ll try to write a short tutorial about all the cool things that you can do using Mendeley.


2.Cold Turkey

This is what you get when you try to open a web in the block list

This is what you get when you try to open a web in the block list

Use for: Keep distraction away | Download: here

Let me tell you a story. There is a guy who has been working on his dissertation for 30 minutes, and then he thinks, let me take a break for a minute. And then he open his browser, go to reddit and find himself still in reddit 2 hours later. What he thinks was only a minute break become 2 hours of non-productivity. You know this story, it’s me and most of us. Distraction is the most difficult enemy and Cold Turkey is the weapon that I find to defeat this. Still, it was not perfect, but do most of the job.

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Look how many times I’ve tried to open the blocked sites

What Cold Turkey do is very simple, it will block all of things that you categorized as distraction. It could be website or apps. The coolest thing about this app is you can’t disable the non-distraction mode once it is activated. Let say you activate the non-distraction mode for the next 8 hours, then you can’t visit all websites or apps that you put on your block list. Awesome right? I have most of my favorite website and the most distractive one on my list like reddit, but I still left some of them that are not too distractive such as the news site so I can still enjoy it on my break time. So far, it has been working really well and I’m really satisfied with the result. I even consider paying for this app sometimes, not because I need the pro feature, but as a way to say thank you for helping me.


3.Listen On Repeat

LIsten On Repat

LIsten On Repat

Use for: Music |Download: listenonrepeat.com

I may be a minority in the way I listen to Music. When more than 150 million people (Spotify 150M Apple Music with 20M) right now are listening music through streaming service, I still listen music through YouTube. I listen music only when I use my computer (I listen to podcast when commuting) and since I can’t really tell the difference between the quality of the sound between YouTube and music streaming service, I’m okay with using YouTube and I can save several pounds a month. YouTube song library is great; I can’t think of any moment when I can’t find the song I want on YouTube.

The only problem with YouTube is that I can’t repeat the song that I want and that’s where Listen on Repeat comes. I’ve been using this site since my undergraduate and I love it. It’s very easy to use, if you find a song the that you like on YouTube, you just need to replace the youtube.com address to listenonrepeat.com and you’ll get your song repeated until you get bored and you find a new song. My favorite working playlist right now is from IndieLokal, a dedicated channel that showcases Indonesian indie music. It has lots of great song and several playlists, my favorite are their 1 and 3 playlist.

4.Tomato One

Tomato One Timer

Tomato One Timer

Use for: Maintain your pace | Download: here

Tomato One is another productivity apps that helps you to work based on Pomodoro technique. If you never know what Pomodoro is, it is basically a productivity technique to optimize your performance. It is based on the premise that human can only focus on doing thing for as long as 20/25 minutes and then you need a break. Every break will last for 5 minutes and there will be a long break for 20 minutes after 3 breaks. It hopes that after you get a little break, your mind can be focused again in doing your job rather than doing it continuously without a break. Usually I use the 5 minutes break to open whatsapp, news site and the longer break to take a walk.

The technique helps me a lot in terms of pushing me to do more stuff when I want distraction. For example, I’ve been writing a paragraph and then I want some distraction. However, Tomato One shows that I still have 10 minutes before my next break, so I will keep doing stuff until I get my break. It also important in terms of reminding you that the break time is over even though sometimes I ignore it when I’ve been too distracted, that’s where Cold Turkey will play its part for not allowing me to open the most distractive site.

5.One Note

They just updated their UI, I love the old UI more

They just updated their UI, I love the old UI more

Use for: Note taking | Download: here

If you know Evernote, that you already know the function of One Note because both software is similar in terms of the core functionality even though it also differs in many aspects. Honestly, I’ve not using this tools much lately since I can use Mendeley to highlight important sentence on a paper. Beforehand, I used to copy paste important sentence from a paper to One Note. This tool come in handy when you want to compile many information from different source like when I tried to find a topic for my dissertation. In order to find the framework, I have to reads lots of paper and compile all of the findings in one place, that was when I use One Note frequently.

Beside One Note, I also use a journal that I bought for just one pounds to keep things that I need to do and analyze stuff. Even though One Note is good for note taking, there are still things that for me, are better written because it is just much easier. The downside of writing in a journal is that sometimes I need time to understand what I wrote because it is really messy. Hahahaha.

Well, I guess that’s all the tools that I’ve been using to write my dissertation. I’m planning to write a short tutorial on how I use Mendeley because I helps me a lot and I’m not sure if people get it since the UI is not that good and people may find it too complex to use. If you use any other tool to helps you write your dissertation please let me know in comment, maybe it can help me too.

Thanks and have a nice day 🙂