Procrastination means doing almost anything to avoid or delay doing the thing you are supposed to be doing. Often, we procrastinate when we are overwhelmed or fear failing the task at hand. We also procrastinate because it can be a fun or relaxing distraction. Procrastination during your PhD is likely to occur at some points over the many years you are researching and writing. Here are five tips which we have found useful when procrastination is setting in during your PhD:
Being overwhelmed with an ever-growing list of tasks can cause procrastination over the important tasks. Have a look at your ‘to do’ list and decide what is urgent and rank your tasks from most to least important. Then focus on completing the most important tasks first. This tactic can help to ensure that you are focusing on the right tasks.
2- Stop aiming for perfection
Fear of failure can cause procrastination, however if you stop aiming for perfection on your first attempt this can help move your work along. First, aim for done – get what ever task is at hand such as a chapter draft, written. Once it is written, then you can edit and start making improvements.
3- Break your work down into chunks
Avoid trying to achieve miracles each and every day. You do not need to write an entire thesis chapter in one week and work 24 hours per day throughout your PhD. Instead, break your PhD writing time into chunks, such as working for a number of hours and then having a proper break before continuing. Having breaks during writing days can help prevent you from being overworked and overwhelmed.
4- Change your research environment
Sometimes the environment you are working in will impact your work. You need to figure out which environments work for you when you are researching and writing, and which environments do not. Some people work best in complete silence, whilst others work best in environments with some background noise. Once you know which environment has the fewest number of distractions for you personally, then this can assist with limiting the amount of time you spend procrastinating.
5 – Reward system
Sometimes, having a reward system can help with avoiding procrastination- this tactic works on at least two of the Law PGR’s here at Lincoln. Essentially, you work for a certain length of time or aim to complete certain tasks and only upon completion of these tasks or designated time, can you have a reward of some kind. The preferred reward system for the two nameless Law PGR’s here at Lincoln are snack rewards or more substantial rewards when reaching key milestones within the PhD.
On a final note, sometimes there may be other underlying reasons for procrastination, such as PhD burn out where you may need a proper break. If you are experiencing severe procrastination and cannot get going, then we would suggest speaking to your PhD supervisor about it. A PhD can be challenging with various obstacles along the way and so it is important to be mindful of your own well-being.