Productive Procrastination

Procrastination is the devil of the researcher.  The inability to find the energy to read an article sensibly, put finger to keyboard, or put in the actual thinking time that’s needed to get through a PhD or other piece of research is well-known and well documented.

I know my own procrastination points, these include the perception that I can only study when sealed in my own tower at the top of my home, that I must have music of a particular type to listen to (in a playlist on iTunes), with plenty of post-it notes and highlighters around.  The biggest procrastination that I have to overcome though is the idea that my PhD can only be completed in day-long, or half-day blocks of work.  In reality the number of days or full evenings I can allocate to it in the coming year is constrained by other things, not least of which is my ‘day job’, and also trying to keep some sort of work-study-social life balance.

It was whilst reading my latest book purchase as part of my next (final) part of my PhD that I came across ‘twenty forms of procrastination’.  I was going to list them below, but to be honest they vary in quality from the valid (I just can’t get started) to the trivial (The oven needs cleaning).

Today I have been productive, reading the two chapters that I needed to before tomorrow, making notes which even make some sort of sense, and also reflecting on what I will post (we have three weeks of online discussion before we are cast adrift and left to our own devices).  But I have also managed to be productively procrastinating too, in that I’ve written yet another one-pager summary (one page summaries are easy, it’s turning the one page summary into the three hundred page thesis thats the problem), and in the process have also courted another potential supervisor (we have to put down a list of whom we would like to supervise us, a bit like speed dating, but without the sweaty palms).  I’ve placed an edited version of the summary on this blog, this will definitely be a work in progress and there are some major gaps at the moment, but it is a useful document for anyone who wonders what I’m spending the next couple of years working on.

Of course, the ultimate procrastination exercise is writing a blog entry about procrastination, and you’d never catch me doing that.


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