To follow up on Rex’s “grad school is a marathon not a sprint” posts, I’d like to share the advice I give to students working on their dissertations. It is basically the same method that Jerry Seinfeld uses: “Don’t break the chain!”
The important thing is to do a little work every day. How much you can do will depend on a lot of factors, 500 words a day is what works for me. For some people it might be 250, for others it might be 1000. The point is to figure out how much you can produce if you squeeze every drop out of your LEAST productive days. That is your baseline. You want to do at least that much every day. If you do it, like Jerry Seinfeld suggests, cross a big “X” off on your wall calendar. If after you’ve done that much you feel like you are on a roll, then, by all means, keep on writing till you burn out. But if you feel that it has taken everything you’ve got to give that day, then reward yourself by playing video games, watching a movie, reading a good book, or taking a nap – whatever you like.
And it doesn’t really matter if what you write is good or not. You can revise it later. If all you write is “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” that’s OK! Just don’t break the chain. (And don’t hack your family to death with an axe.)