Two years ago, I started writing my PhD thesis. I had already done the hard part: all the experiments, the data analysis, even publishing a paper. Now I just had to sit at my desk and describe everything I’ve done in the lab, so I could finally get my title.
This shouldn’t take long, right?
Wrong! To this day, I’m still struggling to find the time, motivation, and discipline to buckle down and do it. But recently I stumbled upon a solution. During the past month, I managed to do as much progress as in the six months before that. You want to know how? I procrastinated my way toward my goals.
Like most people here, I’m quite familiar with procrastination. Let’s face it: that’s why you’re surfing the internet right now, instead of doing that thing. You know very well what I’m talking about. And the worst part is that while we keep fooling around, the list of things we have to get done keeps getting longer and longer.
Case in point: my current top priorities are:
- finishing the PhD thesis
- writing a book
- planning our wedding.
Each day I wake up and think: Today I’m going to work toward these three goals. Or at least two of them. Fine, I’ll settle for one, as long as it gets me closer to finally achieving it. Then I sit at my desk (never try to work toward your goals in bed, it won’t work!) with a cup of coffee (you know you need that coffee, stop fooling yourself) and decide which of the three tasks to tackle.
To my surprise, during the past month, I’ve picked the PhD thesis about 3 times out of 5. Although it’s not the most pressing task (the wedding is), nor the newest/most entertaining goal (the book is), I keep deciding to work on the hardest one, which is writing the thesis.
Here’s the trick: whenever I feel too tired or unmotivated to write for my thesis, I take a break and ponder.
Do you want to work on the thesis or would you rather pick wedding invitations and call that girl with the cupcakes? Or maybe you want to finish the book chapter that froze your mind last time.
And before you know it, I’m adding citations and working on figures like there’s no tomorrow.
I’m basically using the PhD thesis to feed my inner procrastination monkey. It’s a way to avoid working on those other two tasks. But it’s also getting me closer to my goals, one day at a time. And whenever the procrastination monkey is on to the trick, I work on one of the other tasks for a day or two.
There’s probably some psychological explanation why this works. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. If so, let me know. And if not, give it a try! Stop fighting your inner procrastination monkey. Embrace it and work together toward your goals.