Extreme procrastination and writers block


Recently I seem to only be able to work around 2 hours per day. I have no idea how I manage to spend long hours in my office, but so few actually doing work. You would think i'd run out of activities to procrastinate over. I really am terrible. I don't know why i'm like this just now, it's not like I dislike my work, I love it! And I am under pressure to finish a book chapter I am writing for one of the leading academics in my field. I know how important it is, I know what a great opportunity I have been given, but everything I write just seems to read like something I would have written as a 19 year old undergrad.

I have been back from finishing fieldwork for two and a half months and it feels as though I've made hardly any progress besides a load of transcribing that is STILL not finished. Seriously what is wrong with me?!


Hi Slowmo

Sounds grim! I'm afraid I can't answer what's wrong with you, but it sounds like there's something going on alright. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Have you finished your field work and come back with lots of data and mountains of work to do? If you're doing very little, is it because there is too much to do?

We know the answers to procrastination - make lists, start with things you enjoy, factor in rewards very often. Think how good you'll feel when that chapter's written! If you've been procrastinating for weeks, you've probably gotten into some bad work habits. Set your daily routine, factor in breaks and rewards, and force yourself. You want to finish, but procrastinating and feeling guilty won't help!

Do you need a holiday? Or more guidance from your supervisor? Don't worry about writing like a 19 year old, you have to start somewhere. Just keep going. Slowly it'll get done, then how good will that be!!? Do the 2 hours, have a break, a walk, a chat, and then do another half hour, then another...


If, as you say, it is a recent thing then don't worry about it too much - you'll find that your PhD productivity ebbs and flows throughout, just don't beat yourself up about it too much. I'm a third year (about to become 4th) and as well as the typical good day, bad day, good day thing I also have good month, bad month, good month etc. in which I do a brilliant month and then jack all work the following month. I've just come to accept that I can't do 9-5 day in day out.

The key word here is "momentum" and to gain momentum you need to get started. This works for me and it might for you. Nice early start in the office NO internet at all during office hours (unless required for work), no emails till lunch and start the day by reading a paper. This should get the grey matter going and then you're ready to rumble.


Re: writer's block. Again, reading (whether it be a paper in the morning, or a novel) seems to enrich your immediate vocabulary so you'll find that the words will come easier. If not, the main idea at this stage is to get the ideas down. You can edit/polish the prose later.