Procrastination on a PhD – Tips to get you motivated

Procrastination. A word that is used very often in academia, especially when it comes to writing. I’m definitely guilty of procrastination and I thought I would share some tips that I use to keep myself on track.

1. Have a routine.
Okay, so I definitely could be better at this and I think I will be once I move out of my family home this weekend. But I think a routine is very important, especially when it comes to a PhD. Treat it as though it is a job, make yourself start working at 9am, give yourself a morning break, a dinner, a afternoon break and a finish time. And to stop yourself from clock watching – set alarms for each times so you know that unless that alarm goes off, you have to keep working.

2. Work in small chunks.
If you’re like me and you get distracted really easy (you go online to search for a journal and end up watching YouTube videos of cats), then this is definitely a good way to go. I find it best to do it in 15 minute chunks, so I set a timer for 15 minutes which I work straight for and then I’ll go make a cup of tea or have a 2 minute check of Facebook. This I tend to use when I need to do some writing, I don’t tend to use it for researching or reading, but it could be effective for other aspects too.

3. Don’t beat yourself up.
Something that can be really damaging and make your procrastination even worse is getting angry at yourself for procrastinating in the first place. Just tell yourself – okay I have procrastinated but now I need to work. Accept it, because the more you get frustrated with yourself the less likely you are to get yourself motivated to actually do work.

4. Reward yourself.

A very common one, but having a reward can be very motivating! This can be 5 minutes on a game, an episode of a TV show you’re watching, or just a cup of tea. But rewarding yourself for a working for a certain amount of time or getting a certain section finished can be really helpful.

5. Just because it’s work doesn’t mean you’re not procrastinating.

Quite often, I kid myself into thinking I’m actually doing work as I will do the work that is not urgent and requires less thought than the work that I really need to concentrate on and really need to do. Maybe allow yourself to do the more menial tasks after you’ve done certain parts of the the more challenging tasks.

6. Have other things to do – switch tasks.

This is my number one tip as I get bored of working on the same thing all day every day. This is partly why I voluntarily took on a research position that was extremely different to my own area, I wanted to have something I could change to if I could no longer concentrate on my PhD. This doesn’t just have to be research, you could break it up by doing some teaching or even going to a conference. But a lot of people would get frustrated with the same thing over and over again!

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