At a recent ‘Managing yourself and your PhD course’ I asked attendees to list their issues. The second biggest issue was procrastination.

procratination phdsProcrastination can be defined as “to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.” [1] and that’s certainly a problem!

Why do we deliberately not do what we know we should be doing even if it causes us pain?

We end up being stressed, feeling guilty, in a worse situation and gain disapproval from others. This makes it even harder to do anything and can become a downward spiral.

It is basically “a breakdown in our Self Control. You know what you ought to do and you’re not able to bring yourself to do it. It’s that gap between intention and action.” [2]

So how can we overcome it? Top tips include:

1.Have a plan. Now that you don’t have ‘classes’ you have to structure your own time. I tumblr_inline_mjbjohnZlb1qz4rgpnoticed that the biggest issue that PhD students mentioned was all about how to plan and manage activities. If you do not have a plan you will not know where to start and you will not have prioritised your work. Break your work down into sections and tasks. Then make a weekly plan of what you need to do. A daily plan is even better, a to do list might help!

2. Track your progress to help keep motivated. Mark things off as you complete them and don’t be afraid to move things round if you get blocked on one of your tasks e.g. perhaps you need to clarify something with your supervisor. Start the next task instead and then come back to the one that was blocked later on. Seeing your progress will help you feel that you are achieving and keep you on track.

3.Create an environment that suits how you work and remove as many distractions as possible. Be especially aware of digital distractions! Keep off social media and do not keep checking your emails. Make sure you have everything you need, e.g. stapler and staples etc and keep your work space organised so you can find things easily. Check your posture and your computer height, brightness etc to make sure you are comfortable and not creating back pain etc

4.Take breaks. Research takes a lot of focus so you need to take regular breaks to help your mind come back refreshed. Do your work in slots and then have a break e.g. I will read three research articles/write my abstract then I will have a break.

5.Keep your work within working hours and have a home/social life. You are not effective if you work long hours.

6.Ask for help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask others to help when you get stuck. Better to admit you do not know something than waste valuable time. Others are usually only too willing to help. Make sure you make the most of supervisory meetings by listing the things you need to know or resources you need to access etc so that you can make sure you get what you need and when you need it.

If anyone else has any tips on what works for them then please feel free to comment below.

  • [1] Steel, Piers (2007). “The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure”. Psychological Bulletin 133 (1): 65–94.
  • [2] Dr Andrew Dobson
  • [3] Image
  • [4] Image