Spring is the time of year where several big projects come to the fore. Your to-do lists may include one—or more—of the following: doing a job search, writing up your thesis or capstone summary, continuing work on that dissertation, defending your dissertation, or making arrangements to move with your family after graduation. And by no means are these small tasks. So it’s no wonder why, for different reasons (a task feels too big, intimidating, or the long-term benefits don’t seem readily apparent because of immediate stress or anxiety), we put off doing these projects.
First things first, you are definitely not alone in these feelings. We at Core Programs hear you and encourage you to dig deep for that final push this quarter. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help you do just that. Below are just a few:
Practice self-compassion. One of the biggest reasons we might procrastinate from doing a task is because we judge ourselves internally before we even begin. We might tell ourselves that we “need to be perfect,” or that we are “incompetent” or “undeserving” of a graduate degree, getting that job after graduation, or even success in general. Sometimes these are feelings we internalize, rather than verbal messages. And all of this can stop us in right our tracks. One way to move through negative self-talk is to practice being mindful. When negative thoughts come up, avoid over-identifying with those thoughts and say to yourself, “That’s interesting that I’m thinking that.” If you do judge yourself for not working on one of your projects, that’s a perfect moment to be self-compassionate. You can ask yourself, “What would a caring friend say to me right now?”
Negotiate with yourself. We all have ways we can avoid getting things done. For some of us, it’s spending a few hours on Netflix. For others, it might be reading a book we enjoy, rather than the required reading for a graduate seminar. Still for others, it might be playing video games. And let’s be real—completely denying yourself of a coping mechanism for stress is neither realistic nor the complete answer. Might you meet yourself halfway? For example, can you set aside time in your schedule to write for 15 min., then watch a 30 min. Netflix show—eventually working your way up to 30 min. writing increments? The goal is not to deprive yourself or even judge yourself for avoiding, but to aim for breaking down your projects into manageable tasks.
Be resourceful. One important skill we know you have as graduate students is being resourceful. You have developed this skill over time, and this has helped you tap into your strengths to navigate the university system, your graduate education program, and life in general. It is also perfectly okay to reach out for support when you need it. Check in with a peer, loved one, or member of your thesis or dissertation committee to hold you accountable to breaking down and completing your projects in a realistic manner—and to remind you to reward yourself for each, no matter big or small. You can also schedule an appointment with at a UW writing center, form a writing group, or meet with advisors at your campus career center.
We hope you found these strategies useful, and we know you can do it!
Core Programs Team
- 5 Strategies for Self-Compassion, PsychCentral
- Procrastination 101: It’s Not About Feeling Like It – How We Can Get Past Feeling Like It, Psychology Today
- Procrastination, The Writing Center at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
- Nothing is Certain Except Procrastination and Taxes, PhD Comics