Updated: Apr 28
Being affected by procrastination is the most common thing you’ll hear from PhD students. Their obsession with procrastination may be due to several reasons. Sometimes it is due to the guilt that they are doing other things instead of working on their research. This happens mostly when they start doing low-priority tasks between the high-priority ones. Moreover, lack of motivation and unable to focus on your work may also be the reason behind it.
But What’s the Main Cause of Procrastination?
According to research, the biggest reason for procrastination among scholars is fear. It includes the fear of imperfection, fear of what others will say about your work, fear of the complexity of your research, fear of approaching deadlines, and so on.
You can further check out The 4 Causes of Procrastination According to Research here.
How to Handle Procrastination?
Tackling procrastination may seem difficult, but it isn’t impossible. There are several ways by which you can totally avoid it. Also, there are ways that you can use it positively for your research. Let's look at some of them below.
1. Fine-tune Your Daily Plans
Prioritizing your work will greatly help you avoid procrastination. For example, working on your research, writing a thesis, or work related to approaching deadlines requires immediate attention and falls into the category of high-priority tasks. Whereas assignments and projects with later deadlines, doing dishes and laundry, or going for groceries are low priority tasks. Here's a sample for your help.
Now it doesn’t mean that you should give all your heart and soul to the higher category tasks and totally ignore the latter ones. It is suggested that you take your PhD related work as an 8-hour job and work on it with total devotion. While the rest of the day can be utilized casually for the remaining low priority tasks. It is also very important to take a day or two off per week in order to refresh your mind and avoid academic burnout.
2. Set up your workspace:
Sometimes, despite having an all-figured-out schedule for your thesis you still can't work out as expected. The reason for this is that you don’t have a proper workspace. You get constantly distracted while working from your home or office by petty chores, irrelevant affairs, or just by the desire for some leisure time.
The best place to work on your thesis is a library because you get to be surrounded by hyper-focused fellows and have a distraction-free environment. When you see others studying and working enthusiastically around you, it automatically enables you to work with the same passion instead of procrastinating.
3. Game of Willpower:
Your strongest weapon in fighting against procrastination is your willpower. You may often be tempted to do something else while working on your thesis. You may just want to pick up your phone and start using social media, listen to the news or binge-watch your favorite series as it requires no effort and gives you comfort. But before doing anything else think twice about the consequences of wasting this valuable time allocated only for your thesis. When you realize the impact of it on your future you’ll probably continue working on your thesis instead.
Here are some Ways to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough
4. Stop being a Constant ‘Happy Helper’:
If you are a person who can’t say ‘no’ when someone approaches you for help then you are most prone to losing focus and consequently falling prey to procrastination. Imagine you are working on your thesis with great concentration after a bit of effort and suddenly your friend or colleague pops up and asks you for some help in their work. You being a happy helper leave your own work and sort out their problem and then another one comes. After he/she is gone you try to resume your work but despite trying, you can’t concentrate in the same way as before. This leads you to procrastinate and lose quite a lot of time.
The solution to this is that firstly you should learn to politely say no or ask them to come at some other time so that you may not get distracted. If this seems difficult then you should keep yourself non-reachable for them during your working hours. This may sound rude to you but believe me, you are just helping yourself by doing so.
5. Know Your Span of Focus:
Every human being has a particular span of focus in which he/she can do optimum work. On average a person is able to focus for 20 minutes, but it may vary from person to person. It is recommended that you figure out how much time you can focus while working on your thesis and give your best during that duration. Some of our best insights and ideas come when we are not at our desks so, you can take small breaks in between to boost your productivity and concentration, as it greatly helps to avoid procrastination.
“Only through focus can you do world-class things, no matter how capable you are” (Bill Gates).
6. Use Scheduling Apps:
While enrolled in a PhD it is very important for you to sort out your schedule and course plan so that you may not fall off track. Nowadays, it has become a lot easier with the help of scheduling apps. You can create your plans and set reminders for them so that you may not miss any deadlines.
Moreover, when you will be continuously reminded by those apps that you have to achieve a particular goal before this deadline you’ll not procrastinate enough. But make sure to make a realistic plan otherwise you’ll get discouraged and beat yourself up with unrealistic work expectations which will lead you to more procrastination instead.
Here you can access one such app: To-do-list-Schedule Planner & To-Do Reminders App
7. Productive Procrastination:
Productive procrastination is done with cognitive behavioral therapy which basically is a way to recognize and change your habits. When you don’t feel like working on your thesis you can procrastinate by working on something else. It means that you are not doing one thing but in counter to doing something else. So, basically, you are not wasting time by sitting idle but utilizing it for a task that is equally important. You are only switching between tasks that don’t bore you and achieving two goals at the same time.
“Unlike traditional procrastination, which replaces adaptive behaviors with maladaptive behaviors, productive procrastination replace one adaptive behavior with another adaptive albeit less important behavior” (Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2016, p.2)
Here is a great book to understand procrastination more deeply: Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy A. Pychyl
8. Join a doctoral Boot camp:
So the most effective way to get rid of procrastination is to join a doctoral boot camp. Doctoral Boot Camp helps scholars learn to write more productively, and to produce better writing, by providing space with minimal distractions, a writing regimen; peer motivation, support, and expert writing consultants.
While the program focuses on helping students improve writing productivity, students take away with them writing habits and strategies that will aid them in writing projects in the future. So you see, there is no chance of procrastination in such an intensive working environment.
Scholars Professional Editing Group is offering one such doctoral boot camp which you can access by clicking here: Scholars Boot Camp
If you want to learn more about How to Combat Procrastination, Scholars Professional Editing Group is conducting a free seminar about it hosted by Dr. Risa Lumley
Details of the seminar are:
Time: May 1, 2021, 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87334670479
Meeting ID: 873 3467 0479