Writing a research paper is one of the tasks that many researchers procrastinate about.
It’s a big task.
It’s a scary task.
It’s a task that repeatedly gets pushed aside by an endless stream of smaller and less-scary tasks that niggle and demand immediate attention.
If you struggle with procrastination on tasks that are important to you, you’re not alone. Any Internet search on ‘how to overcome procrastination’ will bring forth a plethora of self-help guides.
I (Amanda) have conducted many of those Internet searches about how to beat procrastination – often while procrastinating about starting the write-up of a research paper or a research grant application.
What I noticed is that none of the procrastination-busting guides I read about on the Internet or anywhere else really worked for me. They just left me feeling bad about not doing what the procrastination-busting guides said.
As an example, procrastination-busting guides often say ‘don’t do low-value work until after you’ve done your high-value work for the day’. In contrast, I often do low-value work (those Easy Niggling Tasks) before I do high-value work (like the Big Scary Task of starting the write-up of a research paper or a research grant application). This used to make me feel even worse about myself.
One day, enveloped in the throes of procrastination about writing a research grant application with a looming deadline, I decided to take a candid look at my own procrastination: what it felt like, and what would make it feel more manageable. So, instead of fighting my natural tendency to do a multitude of Easy Niggling Tasks when I ‘should’ be working on the Big Scary Task at hand, I decided to use that force for good. I developed my own self-help guide for kicking procrastination in the guts, and it entailed getting all the Easy Niggling Tasks off my desk before getting stuck into the Big Scary Task. It worked for me! I wrote that research grant application, got it submitted by the deadline, and six months later I received the welcome news that my application had been successful.
The point I want to make from this story is that we all know ourselves better than anyone else knows us. If you struggle with procrastination about writing your paper, or about any other task that’s important to you, then you are the ideal person to be able to identify the ideal solution for yourself.
If you ever find yourself procrastinating uncomfortably about writing your paper, I encourage you to observe any feelings that are bubbling up. Then, use those feelings to guide you towards a solution that feels right for you. The document below is an example. This is the procrastination-busting guide I developed for myself to help write the aforementioned research grant application. I’ve been tweaking it ever since. I’ve also since written two other procrastination-busting guides for myself, because I’ve discovered that I procrastinate for three different reasons, and each type of procrastination requires a different solution. My hope is that by sharing one of my own procrastination-busting guides, it will encourage you to discover your own unique and ideal solutions for making procrastination a non-debilitating issue.