How to stop screwing around and start writing your dissertation

December 19, 2009 at 2:09 pm 7 comments

I admit it: I have certain guilty pleasures that are the result of writing a twenty-first century dissertation. Chief among them, is a habitual, almost ritualistic, reading of facebook. Most days, it is just once after I have been working for a few hours. But sometimes, it seems to be every fifteen minutes. Well, that is no way to write a dissertation, so I decided that I would figure out how to prevent myself from checking web sites as a way of procrastination. I knew I couldn’t cut access off at the router for our house or my husband would kill me; it had to be on my computer, easy to do, and not require any additional software.

Here’s what to do. Disclaimer: your mileage may vary, don’t call us if it doesn’t work.

1. If you are on a PC (at least, with Windows XP or Vista, those are the only ones I’ve tried), open the file C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts with notepad (It will probably warn you that you are editing a system file; don’t worry). If you are on a Mac, open /etc/hosts.

You should see a file that has some stuff up top, and then a few lines that look like this:       localhost

2. Directly underneath those lines, add this as a new line for the web site you want to block: [[Name of web site you want to block: i.e.,]]

You can add as many of these lines as necessary, which would be many, if you have an online shopping addiction.

3. Save and close the file. On a PC, the results should be immediate (i.e., if you try to open on any browser, you will go to the handy dandy Amusicology Procrastination Eradication Machine. On a Mac, you may have to reload your netinfo database. Type “terminal” into spotlight, and then enter the following command at the prompt:

sudo niload -v -m hosts . < /etc/hosts

4. If you ever decide you want access back to the web site, just delete the corresponding line (and, on a mac, repeat step 3).

You can thank us in your acknowledgements page when you finish in three weeks and wonder why it had been taking you so long.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Tufts New Music Ensemble, 4 December 2009 Guest Post by Frank Lehman: Scoring the Decade


  • 1. Andrew Hudson  |  December 19, 2009 at 4:45 pm


    Now, I’m just a naive undergrad composition major, but internet-based procrastination hits pretty hard on these shoulders too… I’ve wondered if something like this was possible for awhile, but never figured out how to do it. Now I know!

  • 2. twelve drummers drumming « another musicology blog  |  December 19, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    […] a fabulous post from the guys over at Amusicology, on, ironically enough, how to get to work on your dissertation. i should really implement this… […]

  • 3. K  |  December 20, 2009 at 10:25 am

    A possibly easier way to do this is to use the free version of Write or Die:

    Good luck!

  • 4. Peg  |  January 16, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Another solution, if one is a luddite (as I am) is to throw your computer into the Atlantic (or the eco-friendly equivalent thereof…)and go back to using a pen and paper. If one is feeling strong, one can continue the purge by cutting up the credit cards and throwing them into the eco-friendly sea of temptation as well.
    Or just give in and surf and shop, shop and surf.

  • 5. Dissertation Help  |  January 16, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Dissertation writing is indeed a grueling task, but proper dissertation help will put an end to your worries… once and for all!

  • 6. Jill  |  January 27, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Another useful tip: read “How to Write a Lot.” I’m junior faculty and my productivity has increased tenfold since reading it. Keep the spreadsheet, it’s great motivation!

  • 7. Meghan  |  June 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    I’m posting a little late, but I recently found this google chrome extension that has a similar effect:


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