Procrastination is rarely a simple case of laziness. Instead, there is most likely a range of emotions you are feeling that keep you from writing. The unfortunate reality, however, is that procrastination begets more procrastination. The first step to conquering your procrastination tendencies is to identify the cause of your resistance to writing. Below, I discuss a few factors that may play into your procrastination.
I think that in some regards, procrastination is a manifestation of impostor syndrome. After all, if you never finish your work, you’ll never have to put it out there and potentially get negative feedback. Your writing is safe in your computer, where you think it should stay. This type of fear can become immobilizing because the longer you put off your writing, the more difficult it will become to start, and your confidence will dissipate.
You literally don’t know where to start. This might be because of intimidation, or because you’re working on a new or large project. At this point, you might think that the project is so big or is going to take so long that what’s the harm in waiting one more day? The harm is that one day turns into a week and before you know it a month has passed and you are way behind. This makes you even more overwhelmed because you have less time to complete this large project.
No longer interested in project/boredom
You might be over your project. This can certainly be the case for junior faculty who are turning their dissertation into a book. It’s a long time to spend with the same literature and the same data. It’s understandable your inspiration might dwindle.
Writer’s block is real. It can be for any of the reasons above, or it can be caused by events or feelings that you might believe to be external to your writing process. Stress, anger, and life in general might be difficult to deal with, and that trouble can creep into your writing. Keep in mind that writer’s block is not a prerequisite for procrastination. You can know exactly what you need to write and simply have no desire or motivation to do it.
Distraction and lack of structure
If your writing is something you can do “anytime” I guarantee you will end up doing it at no time. We all live in a busy world that is full of distractions. There are multiple obligations competing for our time, and because writing tends to be more flexible, you put it off in favor of time specific, calendar driven obligations. Additionally, if you just sit down to a blank page with no plan, you are going to feel overwhelmed and intimidated because you’re unsure where to start (see how these multiple factors feed on one another?).
The first step to conquering procrastination is forgiveness. As I mentioned above, procrastinating does not make you a lazy academic. Each and every one of us has a writing process that is fraught with emotion. That is because our writing holds a lot of meaning, both professionally and personally. We may try to tame those emotions through the creation of routines, systems of accountability, and a focus on productivity. These are all important and can prove effective, but ultimately, you’ll have to identify the feelings that drive your procrastination. Then, you have to stop blaming yourself. Making yourself feel even worse is no solution.