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On the Art of Procrastination



When one voluntarily delays from performing tasks despite believing that he/she to be worse off for doing so – Piers Steel in The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done

Procrastination. The bane of graduate student life. We should avoid procrastination like the plague. However, if you feel like procrastinating (from doing what you need to do as a graduate student), here are the seven steps:

Step #1: Begin with an excuse

Justify your decision to procrastinate. The justification does not have to be a good one. It may simply be waking up on the wrong side of the bed, having a bad day yesterday (or last week, month), or finding out your favorite cereal is finished when you are about to have it for breakfast. If you cannot think of anything personal, think bigger – there are a lot of things in society that can damper the mood of even the sunniest person.


Step #2: Put your comfort first

Make sure that you are as comfortable as possible. Everything needs to be perfect, before you can start on your work. Assess the following, and see what you can do to reach perfection:

  • Clothing. Do you need to change to make sure you are 100% comfortable? Are you wearing your favorite sweater/shirt/dress/pants/etc? If your favorites are dirty, then start on your laundry first.
  • Workspace. Declutter your workspace. Better yet, think of ways to organize your workspace and implement them.
  • Drinks and snacks. Make sure you have enough supply of your favorite drinks and snacks. If you find yourself short, then go out and get them. You need drinks to keep you hydrated, and snacks to keep you fueled.
  • To those working from home – your house needs to be spotless. Go and scrub something – anything – everything.

Step #3: Think about self-care, then plan them

Remember that goal that you made around the end of December – to take better care of yourself. You want to start exercising regularly, indulge in your hobbies on weekends, or read a best-seller every month. Plan these activities into your schedule. Plan them with as much detail as possible. For example, if your goal is to start exercising regularly, then plan to go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9 am for 30 minutes of cardio work. But also remember that your plan will only start next week because right now you are still on the planning stage. Plus, you can’t do anything else right now because you need to <insert whatever task you are delaying here>.


Step #4: Pick the perfect time to start

Know that you can only start working when the stars are all aligned, and the stars are aligned when the hour hand of the clock is at 12. Anything else is unacceptable. For example, if it is 10:05 am, then you have to wait 55 minutes before you can start your work.

Step #5: Have an internal debate

While waiting for the perfect time to start, think of ways to use your newly-founded “free” time. You may come up with several things – great! Carefully decide which one is the best. If you have made your decision, you need to re-examine it. Go ahead, have that internal debate with yourself.

It may also be worthwhile to let your thoughts wonder and get into a good, internal existential debate. Why are you here? Why are you doing your graduate studies? What are your life’s missions and values? Who are you anyway?

Check that clock – oh, it’s 11:01 am! Now you have another 59 minutes of additional “free” time. You can continue with your internal debate or move to Step #6.


Step #6: Distract yourself

Distract yourself with your weapon of choice – be it social media, Netflix, or power naps. Doing a literature search and downloading articles also count (as long as those are not the things you are supposed to be doing).

Step #7: Continue your fight another day

By the time you know it, your working day is almost over. Plan for what you are going to do tomorrow. This planning will most likely involve the things you needed to do today.

Forge ahead, your progress starts tomorrow!

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