A Short Guide to Productive Procrastination

Some days you need to do Ph.D. work but you don’t feel like doing research, writing your dissertation, or doing anything remotely deemed important. Relatable, right? So what do you do if you still have to do something? Eduarda shares a few tips on how to procrastinate writing and researching and still be somewhat productive with your doctoral studies at the same time.

Having quit my 30-hour job to be a full-time Ph.D. student, sometimes I feel guilty for not working hard on my dissertation and research during traditional work hours on weekdays. However, there are days in which we just look at a blank page in our favourite word processor and no ideas seem to transfer from our minds to our fingertips. Some days we just don’t feel like writing, so what can we do to still feel like we’re doing something useful or productive even though we’re just procrastinating?

I found that I have the tendency to procrastinate and still do things that can be useful down the road, so here are a few suggestions that I have been using for a while now and somehow seem to help with future productivity.

Discover your writing fuel

Are you a coffee or a tea person? Or neither? Do you prefer juice or smoothies? Try to find out what can be your reading fuel, that drink you’ll make or get that will be a comfort to you and make you want to write even more. For me, it is tea. Any kind of tea is a warm hug that I feel in my soul and can seriously help me write more – and it also helps me take breaks so I can brew even more tea. But don’t forget to have a water bottle at the ready nearby to hydrate yourself.

Detail your chapters and schedule

Feeling like you don’t know exactly where to begin with or what you’ll need to research and read for a certain chapter? Create a thoroughly detailed summary of your dissertation. Write down all the specific topics, authors, and works, or even arguments. You can use Trello, Notion, Evernote, a bullet journal, the back of a receipt, a sticky note. See what you have “To Do”, what you have “Done”, what you still need “To Research”, maybe even define due dates. This can help you have an overview of what you still need to do and break everything down into doable tasks.

Create or find a writing playlist

Do you prefer silence or are you the type to listen to music while you write? In case you’re the latter, find or create a playlist to help you get in the mood! I wrote my master’s thesis while listening to “This is Placebo” on Spotify, but now I’m currently addicted to lo-fi playlists for a calmer writing day, or if I’m more agitated and up for it, I’ll listen to K-pop and dance on my chair while writing. But remember to choose something that will not distract you too much from the task at hand. If you are too distracted by lyrics, go for soundtracks, classical pieces, instrumental, or lo-fi.

Organize your references

If you use Mendeley or other reference generators, great! If not, create a spreadsheet that can help you understand what you have so far. Include as many columns as necessary, including but not limited to authors, title, what journal it was published, if you have read it or not, if you have the file or not… you can even create tags and waste spend some time creating conditional formatting to help you quickly visualize and sort by subject. A useful tip: organize the columns according to the order of the formatting or style guide that you use, so that you can just copy and paste it into the word processor file later.

Organise your files

I do, and I know you, and probably your friends also have one or more folders of downloaded articles, theses, and dissertations to read and they seem to just keep getting out of control. Too many articles that seem to be useful that you download and leave in that one folder, but then you create another, and suddenly even the Downloads folder seems to be compromised. But no more! Don’t feel like writing? Get to organising those folders! I bet you even have doubles of articles and never even noticed. Sort them into folders labeled as “read” and “to read”, or however you want. And remember that spreadsheet? Check that everything you downloaded is there!

Another tip that has been proven useful to me: have a study buddy. Meet over Zoom, Discord, Google Meet, whichever you prefer, and have a chat while doing some productive procrastination!

But, most importantly, don’t forget that we all need a guilt-free break sometimes. Stay safe, stay sane.

 How about you? How do you procrastinate productively? Share your tips, by tweeting us at @ResearchEx, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

by Eduarda

Eduarda De Carli is a third-year PhD student in Literary Studies at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil. Her research focuses on women detectives in literature and television, and she wants her dissertation to be a homage to Gillian Anderson. You can follow her productivity reels and stories on Instagram @literaryinfusion and her rambling about tv shows in both English and Portuguese on Twitter @dudamaratona.

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