The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Any tips for overcoming habitual procrastination?

I don't know about anyone else, but procrastination is one of my bugbears. I know that when I start writing I will enjoy it and get lots done, but I just can't make the initial effort required to start. Even though the thought of an 80,000 word thesis looming on the horizon causes me enormous anxiety.

Any tips, humourous, practical, spiritual or otherwise, for dealing with this problem?

5 comments:

Mary said...

I'm procrastinating now by reading this when I should be preparing for my viva! One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to break the writing down into small chunks and to force yourself to do, say, two hours before doing anything else (checking your email, chasing references, writing blog posts etc.). Even if you're not an early morning person I think it's a really good discipline. If you manage to write 500 words in 2 hours (a realistic goal) then you'll be well on your way to 80,000 before you know it. I can't say I always stuck to this, but I managed it for a couple of months (probably) and it really helped in terms of making me feel that I'd got some substantial work behind me. Running out of money (or the knowledge that you will do very shortly) is also remarkably motivating... Good luck!

Ceri said...

I would agree with Mary and say that it is best to set yourself small, manageable goals. I am one of the worst people for thinking I can get inhuman amounts of work done then failing miserably and resorting to obsessing over the Internet. However I would not force yourself to write if you really don't feel up to it - maybe go for a walk? I find that this helps to inspire me as I start thinking about what I want to write and usually half way round I suddenly want to go home and make a start. Another possible thing to do is a hated task like cleaning or food shopping which also seems to inspire me to get back to the PhD...

Amy said...

Thanks both. Actually, the 500-words a day thing does work. I was managing to do that before Christmas. Perhaps when I'm back in Leicester (still lazing around at home!) it'll be easier to get back to my old routine. But, I like the idea of forcing yourself to write BEFORE doing anything else. I'm terrible for sitting down at my laptop thinking, 'I'll just check my email', only to find myself still there three hours later! I think I'll give that a try. Thanks Mary!

At the moment I'm just writing what I feel like, when I feel like it. Which is helping to keep me motivated. Although I'm aware that by not writing particularly with a chapter or section in mind, I'm probably storing up loads of problems for myself in the near future. When this is all over, you all have my permission to shoot me if I ever start talking about doing another degree! ;)

Amy said...

I've just read a really useful chapter about procrastination (Chapter 5, 'Do Nothingness') in David D. Burns' 'Feeling Good'. It's predominantly aimed at people who are so depressed they can't get out of bed (!), but there are some really good tips (based on cognitive behavioural techniques)in there for breaking down intimidating and daunting tasks into small, achievable pieces and, crucially, advise about how to avoid feeling guilty when you haven't been able to achieve everything you think you should (in fact, 'should' is a banned word!). Interesting stuff...and I shall be putting it into practice.

Miserable Grad Student said...

I totally commiserate. In fact I started a blog about how much I procrastinate. Maybe you can learn from my pain. Or at least gt a good laugh:
IHateMyThesis.blogspot.com

Good luck!