When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I had a friend (with whom I’m still friends) that shared my proclivity for procrastination. She knew the degree of importance to her of any given assignment due to the activities she did instead of said task.
Chatting with friends about the newest movie of the moment indicated a low-level assignment. Debating the relative merits of obscure 1980s films was reserved for more time intensive and higher point papers. Obsessive dental hygiene was a reserved for semester-end research papers.
During my time completing a M.A. in English, I found her rough assessment fairly accurate. I don’t think I have ever flossed as much as I did trying to complete my thesis. But, through my studies, I also discovered a rationalization for my procrastination: pre-writing. Putting the writing of all papers off until after everyone else had nearly completed theirs provided more time to mull over ideas and see where my thoughts were headed. I found that, once I knew what I wanted to say, I could write all my thoughts down fairly quickly.
See, procrastination, when it functions simply to avoid something unpleasant or necessary, actually hinders the process. And adds misery to misery.
But when I give myself the time and space to think through whatever task looms large, my conflicting, contradictory, and confounding thoughts congeal (more or less) into a form intelligible to those not in my head (for the most part).
The art comes in finding a helpful balance between simply avoiding and actually working through the issues mentally. Too much slacking leads to the dark side of unfinished work and missed deadlines. Too much time problem solving leads to a labyrinth of innumerable, incoherent ideas.
It took me 4 years of undergrad work and 3 years of Masters to begin to figure out the most effective balance. And this year I’m putting my theories to the test as I apply to Ph.D. programs, which will hopefully prepare me for actually completing a Ph.D. program. I’m sure I’ll be writing here more frequently (What better place to work through idea fragments than in a public forum? Might as well provide entertainment through and a permanent record of my lame ideas), and I’ll refine my theories on the art of never doing today what can be put off until tomorrow, and never doing tomorrow what can be put off forever as the year moves along.