By Pravin Jeya
I struggle with procrastination. No doubt lots of PhD students and researchers will be able to relate to this. In fact, this post itself is being written because I’ve hit a wall, indicating that I needed to take a break. But recently procrastination went from being a barrier to my research to the very heart of my research. (That doesn’t give me an excuse to procrastinate, off course.)
It started with a particularly bad bout of procrastination. I just kept coming into uni every day with the intention of making a bit more progress. I had a number of things that I needed to do. And yet, I’d come in, check my email, check Twitter and then get sucked into the black hole of everything but my PhD. I needed help to climb out.
Well, shopping was the answer. No, I did not find inspiration in a wild shopping spree down Oxford Street (the university is close by). On the way home, I always pass by WH Smiths (a newsagent cum stationers) and every now and again I pop in to see if there are any interesting books for sale. I don’t usually buy because of limited financial means, I just like to be around books and make a mental checklist of stuff I want to buy when I get through the books I have at home. Of course, I always forget the checklist.
So, one evening, I saw ‘The Procrastination Equation‘ by Dr Piers Steel. I thought to myself, that’s what I need but I didn’t pick it up because I didn’t think I could afford it. But I came into WH Smith’s about three or four times in a week and every time, I saw this book. Depressed about my current struggle with Procrastination, I picked the book up eventually. I looked at the front cover and the back cover. I noticed that the author was a ‘Dr’ and that he had reviewed all the research into procrastination because he struggled with procrastination. Finally, being a maths graduate, the idea of an equation appealed to me. I felt that this was the book I needed to help me get to grips with my procrastination, because it was debilitating. I am still reading this book at the moment and it is very enlightening.
One thing that caught my eye in the book was when Dr Steel described what procrastination was like. He described it as knowing what we need to do but waiting until we are sufficiently close to our deadline to have the energy to take action. And as I read the words, a light came on. What he was describing was my theoretical framework, the dialectic between resistance and change that explains the slow progress of environmental behaviour despite ‘end of the world’ style predictions. And I knew that that’s what I was trying to do…look at law as a way for dealing with individual and social procrastination. From that moment, Dr Steel’s book became both my personal reading for dealing with a personal problem and a part of my research reading.
This is not my first post on how my environment influences my PhD.