This post by Anaise Irvine first appeared on Thesislink in May 2014.
We all do it. We all let our minds drift from our thesis when we shouldn’t. We have our eyes dutifully glued to our books / data / computers, when suddenly it seems super-critical to check the weather. Then, of course, we need a cup of coffee to help us concentrate, and then gee, that sink could use a scrub, and before you know it several hours have gone down the immaculately clean drain.
Don’t even talk to me about the internet. Sure, it’s great for research, but it’s also great for videos of sneezing baby pandas. What hope does a twenty-first century researcher have for staying focused? In my case: next to none. I’m an extremely proficient procrastinator. My house is spotless, my knowledge of internet memes is first-rate, and my thesis isn’t done.
I haven’t quite made my peace with procrastination, but we’re in a bit of a truce at the moment.
I’ve been making an effort to procrastinate academically. It’s a strange concept – I’m still (deliciously) wasting time, but in a way that’s actually useful. I’ve wiped out all my usual procrastinatory* web bookmarks and set up new, somewhat justifiable ones. For instance, when my mouse drifts over to the Firefox button, I’m no longer going to Facebook.** But often, I’m going to PhD comics for a postgrad-relevant laugh. Or Arts & Letters Daily, for an update on the latest articles of note in the humanities. Or Liz Lemon, PhD for 30 Rock gifs that address the foibles of postgraduate life.
And if I’m not at my computer, I can still producticrastinate* by doodling caricatures of theorists, or sketching graphs that chart my own dying reluctance to tackle a tough reading. I may, or may not, have scripted an entire short film in which noted gender theorist Judith Butler and father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud enter into an increasingly silly battle fought with words, lightsabers, and rubber chickens.
These brief distractions don’t directly help me with my thesis. But they do help me to immerse myself into the world of academia, to see the funny side of research, and to absorb concepts through light-heartedness that I might not grasp through more serious study. They also refresh me. Once I’ve scripted Freud’s surreal, poultry-aided demise, I find his writings somehow much less intimidating.
So hit me up in the comments: what kinds of academic procrastination have you discovered? Aside from, obviously, commenting on a thesis blog?
*Not a word, but should be.
**That’s a bit of a lie, but I go there less.