jessica lian

LINGUIST | RESEARCHER | WRITER

The “P” in Ph.D. is for Procrastinator

Last year, when I decided to start blogging my ABD (all but dissertation) journey, it was with the intention of documenting the final stretch of my Ph.D. adventure.

Well, that’s what I told myself at least. In reality, I had just conveniently found one more way to procrastinate and avoid my Ph.D. work.

Procrastination has taken many forms for me these last four years. Below is a selected list of my most preferred methods of procrastinating:

  • procrastibaking: the practice of baking something in order to put off doing something else you need to do
  • procrastibooking: the act of browsing Facebook in order to put off doing something else you need to do
  • procrasticleaning: the urge to clean your room or other part of your home in order to put off doing something else you need to do
  • procrastineating: the act of consuming food or “snacking” in order to put off doing something else you need to do

Had I continued with my blogging idea, I would have started procrastiblogging too.

Throughout my Ph.D., I have found myself battling with procrastination in all its forms. Sometimes, it’s the urge to get started on dinner. Other times, it’s tackling the easiest things on my to-do list, like cleaning the bathroom or doing laundry. All of these things could be considered “productive”—after all, I do need to get these things done. The problem is I’ve lost all sense of priorities when I’m doing these other things.

There is no such thing as productive procrastination because when the most important thing remains unfinished, I can never feel productive. Even if I manage to complete 99% of my to-do list, I will always feel a sense of guilt for not completing that most important 1%. And currently, that 1% is my dissertation.

These days, as I’m racing towards the finish line, procrastination has taken a more honest form. When I’m not in the mood to write, I don’t even bother doing anything “productive” because I know I’m just avoiding my dissertation. And that’s okay. I don’t need to be writing all the time because that’s not possible. There are days when I write a lot, and there are days when I write nothing. There are days when I write eloquent prose, and there are days when I write word vomit. In between those days, I might edit a draft and make revisions. But there are also those days when I decide the best thing for me to do is to close my laptop and do something completely unrelated to my dissertation.

I now understand that procrastination is a manifestation of my anxiety and guilt when I struggle to write for my Ph.D. It may have taken me years to learn how to manage those negative feelings, but at least I know now that procrastination is not a reflection of my failure to be a productive Ph.D. student. I can choose to write when I feel inspired and focused, but I can also choose to work on other things that I enjoy. Perhaps to an outside observer, baking a pie or folding a hundred dumplings is a signal that I’m procrastinating. All I know is that I get to eat pie and dumplings later that evening before I get back to writing my dissertation.

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