Episode 16 – How to tackle procrastination

Procrastination is of the biggest challenges many of us come up against in our day-to-day work. And it can certainly be a major barrier to effective science communication. Whether you’re trying to write a thesis, an assignment or a blog post, chances are you’ve found yourself delaying getting started.

This week Jen and Michael share their experiences of procrastination and evidence-based advice on how to stop. Two of our wonderful UniMelbSciComm alumni, Caitlin Minney and Lily Ahlemeyer also share their experiences and advice about how to tackle procrastination.

Here are some resources to support you in tackling procrastination:

Plus a couple of tools we use to help beat procrastination:

  • Forest App – focusing on your work helps you build a virtual forest
  • Write or Die – an online word processor that forces you to write… or else suffer the consequences you choose – from spiders crawling across your screen, to your words erasing themselves
  • Cold Turkey Writer – this turns your computer into a typewriter – so you can’t use it for anything other than writing. Great if you struggle with distractions!
  • toggl – a productivity and time tracker that might help you keep an eye on how you spend your time


Jen (00:00:00)
Welcome to Let’s Talk SciComm, a podcast by the University of Melbourne Science Communication Teaching Team. I’m Dr Jen Martin and my co-host is Dr Michael Wheeler and we believe science isn’t finished until it’s communicated.

Jen (00:00:33)
Hello and welcome to another episode of Let’s Talk SciComm.
And as ever I am joined by my wonderful co-host, Michael Wheeler.
And Michael, we put off recording this one for a while, didn’t we. Haha.

Michael (00:00:51)
We did. I was going to say that one but you got there first Jen.
Hope my hint’s there about what today’s episode is going to be about.

Jen (00:00:59)
Oh dear, I think we’ve given it away.
We like to have some episodes about some of the barriers to effective science communication and procrastination is definitely one of those Michael. Tell me, what is procrastination?

Michael (00:01:13)
Procrastination is the voluntary delaying of an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay. Does that sound familiar?

Jen (00:01:25)
Oh and it just sounds so nonsensical, doesn’t it, when you put it that way.
Yet we all procrastinate, right? That’s why we’re here.

Michael (00:01:32)
Yeah it does, and it’s interesting to try and define what is actually going on in your mind when you procrastinate. And Jen and I both love this funny Ted Talk from Tim Urban, who describes procrastination and what is happening in his brain when he procrastinates. So Tim describes it as having several different characters in his brain when he’s procrastinating.
So he starts off with the, the rational decision maker. So you just imagine a very prim and proper stick man holding a wheel to the ship. The rational decision maker is steering Tim throughout the day, making decisions, and has rational decisions in mind. But that’s not the only character that exists.
So Tim describes having an instant gratification monkey… who is hopping around in the background and being like ooh, maybe we should go over here, maybe we should go over here. Maybe grabbing the wheel. Maybe shoving the rational decision maker out of the way and just taking complete control of the wheel and just doing whatever is fun and easy in the moment, which is a familiar experience I think to a lot of us who are procrastinating and we get distracted by other more interesting things.
And so then there’s a third character then, which is basically dormant for most of the time, but only arises once there’s enough I suppose panic around. So that if the instant gratification monkey takes control of the wheel for too long, the rational decision maker realises you know, we’re actually not going to get this done, we’re gonna be in real trouble here. Alarms starts to rise and when it reaches a critical level, the panic monster comes out and that is the only thing that instant gratification monkey is scared of. And only then can the rational decision maker take back control of the wheel, once the, the monkeys run up a tree or something.
So I love that explanation. I think having the, the panic monster as a requirement to get over being distracted is really relatable. And it’s especially hard when we think about tasks that we have that don’t actually have a deadline, because the panic monster comes out when we’ve got a deadline. There’s no deadlines, it’ll stay dormant.
So I think for me what I take away from that is that creative tasks that are very prone to procrastinating. And because I think science communication is the type of thing that a lot of people might do on the side and there might not necessarily be as many deadlines associated with it, I think that is something that we can procrastinate about as well.

Jen (00:04:18)
Oh absolutely. And I think that instant gratification monkey we, we can all relate to that. But the thing in Tim Urban’s talk that really stayed with me is he describes a happy playground, which is where you get to do leisure activities and you’ve earned those leisure activities and they feel satisfying and fun and great. But there’s also a dark playground, which sits beside the happy playground. And that’s often exactly the same leisure activities, but they’re unearned leisure activities. And you do them, but you feel guilty about them because you know that you haven’t earned that leisure time.
And we have to be aware of these negative feelings that we experience when we’re doing fun things but we know we shouldn’t be. So you’ve got your happy playground and you’ve got your dark playground. And in the dark playground, you’ve got to imagine that these, these dark woods. And he describes the dark woods as being the task at hand that you know you should be working on. And you’ve got to find your way from being in that dark playground of leisure into this really scary place of the dark woods, because the only way you can get to the happy playground is if you force yourself into these dark woods and actually start working on the task.
And so he identifies this idea of there’s this critical entrance, you’ve got to find your way how to extract yourself from the guilty leisure into the dark woods and you’ve got to work out what it is that’s going to be able to get you there. And that’s really helpful for me. I picture his diagram in my head all the time. It’s OK, OK, I’m playing in the dark woods…. You know, I’m playing in the, in the dark guilty playground. How am I going to get to the, into the dark woods and force myself to start?
But, but the thing I also find really interesting about procrastination is that we might think it’s this modern day problem that it’s only since we’ve had smartphones and other distractions that we procrastinate. But we’ve got good evidence that procrastination’s been around for a really long time. So there’s an Egyptologist who translated some hieroglyphics from 1400 BC, and he translated them as “friend, stop putting off work and allow us to go home in good time”, which I mean in hieroglyphics, just, that’s just crazy.
And then I know you found a quote from Hesiod, who is a Greek poet from around 750 BC. And that quote was “a man who puts off work is always at hand grips with ruin”. So I think procrastination’s been around for a really long time. And it’s probably, you know, at some stage in human history the things we did we depended on for survival. If we didn’t build fires, if we didn’t find food… but then at some point there were tasks that if we didn’t do them, we weren’t gonna die, it didn’t equate to doom. And so as soon as we then had the opportunity to do something that we would now think of as leisure activities, it became possible to choose the fun things over the tasks that may be seen as more important.

Michael (00:06:58)
Yeah, and it’s highly possible the Egyptians were planning on doing some hieroglyphics about procrastination before 1400 BC Jen, but they just didn’t get around to it.

Jen (00:07:09)
You’ve nailed it, Michael. That’s, that’s it, I’m certain.

Michael (00:07:14)
They would have had distractions in their time as well, things like board games and it kind of led me down an interesting rabbit hole about what is the, the oldest board game, which I’m sure all the audience is curious about now. So there’s actually one from 3500 BCE called Senet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senet), which apparently is still played today.

Jen (00:07:36)
Wow, there you go. I’m glad to hear you are procrastinating by learning more about procrastination Michael. That’s excellent, doing your homework for the podcast. I like it. So we know it’s been around forever. And of course, now, there’s lots of research. Procrastination is absolutely the topic of lots of current research.
And I think the way Tim Urban puts it is really very useful, because what we know is that procrastination is essentially a war between two parts of your brain. So you’ve got the limbic system, which is essentially your instant gratification monkey. I always think of it as my inner toddler. And then you’ve got the prefrontal cortex. So the limbic system is an ancient part of our brain and it seeks instant gratification. It’s always looking for the next thing that will bring pleasure and fun and joy. Whereas the prefrontal cortex, which evolved more recently in mammalian history — that’s much more involved with decision making and planning and logical thought. So on the one hand, you’ve got your monkey who wants pleasure now and on the other hand, you’ve got the planning part of your brain.
And it just turns out that in the moment, we of course value immediate rewards much more highly than future ones, because future ones seem really quite distant. And it takes a lot more effort to kick the prefrontal cortex into action. So distant rewards, even if they’re really big ones, you know, getting this thesis written, whatever it is, they’re big rewards. But they’re very distant, so they don’t have very much sway over us because our instant gratification monkeys are much more powerful in the short term.
So for me, learning about this research has been really helpful because it’s taught me that it isn’t a bad habit. We tend to beat ourselves up thinking that we procrastinate because we’re lazy or we’re not disciplined enough, whatever it is. But the research suggests it’s just hard wired into our brains, and it takes a lot of effort not to procrastinate.
And there was a really good piece in the New York Times a couple of years ago which we’ll share in the show notes, which really makes the point that it’s not about time management and being a bad time manager, it’s about emotional regulation. There are tasks out there that feel hard. We don’t like doing tasks that feel hard because they make us feel bad. So of course, why would we do them if they make us feel bad? Instead, the inner 4-year-old says Ooh, let’s go do that, that looks like fun.

Michael (00:09:53)
Yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting listening to that description of the research and the two different parts of the brain. And I almost feel like in my situation, my limbic system is so powerful it’s able to convince my prefrontal cortex to do some rational explanation as to why I should be procrastinating.
You know, so I’ll be sitting there, be need to do something and then I want to go to the fridge you know, that’s a big distraction for me. And my limbic system’s so strong that it gets my prefrontal cortex to agree yeah, you should go to the fridge because you need to have a snack, that will improve your ability to do this task.

Jen (00:10:31)
Yeah, you’ll concentrate much better when you’ve got some solid nutrition in your system. That’s very important.

Michael (00:10:35)
Yeah, definitely. And I suppose one experience that I have of procrastination that really sticks out in my mind, where I really went down a bit of a rabbit hole was when I was finishing secondary school and we had to do our exams in Ireland. It’s called the leaving certificate. And I was supposed to be studying for that, but became interested in magic and magicians of all things.
Just started reading a few articles, maybe a few more after that… And eventually decided okay, I’m going to go and buy a magic kit now that I’m going to be able to do some magic performances for my friends and family, you know? And this is all well, I’m supposed to be studying. Yes, I got really into it. Got a full, a full magic kit, ended up doing a performance for my family. And they said, “oh, it must have taken your ages to learn all those tricks” and then you know, I was clever enough to say “oh no, it, it only took me about an hour.”

Jen (00:11:37)
I’ve been studying really hard Mum and Dad. I promise!

Michael (00:11:44)
My Mum’s probably listening to this now. So yeah, no, it’s probably about 2 hours then. Let me revise that.

Jen (00:11:52)
Well, you, you clearly did OK in those exams Michael. It hasn’t held you back in terms of your future career so I think the magic was probably a very good investment of time.

Michael (00:12:02)
I think so. I turned out OK and yeah, funnily enough, finished the exams and lost all interest in magic and I’ve never thought about it since.

Jen (00:12:11)
Well, I’m going to demand a magic show. I really want to see magic. I find it very hard to imagine that there’s anyone listening to this who could honestly say hand on heart they don’t ever procrastinate. And if that’s you, please get in touch ’cause we’d love to know your secrets. Because I procrastinate all the time and I’m well aware that I’m doing it and I’m well aware that I’m going to pay a price, and then I’m going to end up feeling this incredible pressure and frustration with myself. And I have to say, the longer the pandemic’s gone on, the more I procrastinate because the more I avoid hard tasks, ’cause I just don’t feel like I have the energy.
But something else that I noticed, which I found really interesting Michael was… you know that we talk about procrastination in our subjects, with our students because it’s such an important topic to normalise. For everyone to recognise that I’m OK, I’m not a bad person just because I procrastinate, we all procrastinate. So we generally always have a lecture on procrastination and tools to tackle it. And so I’ve done that over many years with students, we teach who are research active. So these are master students, they’re all doing their own research projects across all different disciplines of science. And we run a session on procrastination. And at the end of the semester, when you ask for feedback, not all, but a high majority of them say that that was the most useful session. They were so glad to learn some skills about how to tackle procrastination.
Yet, when we give a similar lecture, a similar session with students who aren’t researchers and don’t have to write a thesis, who are doing a masters by coursework, the feedback was oh yeah, that session didn’t really apply to me, I didn’t find it that relevant and that useful. And I just wonder if we’re kind of causing this culture of procrastination by requiring students to write big difficult documents like theses. Maybe we didn’t procrastinate so hard before we had big hard tasks like that. And when you’re faced with something as difficult as writing a thesis for the first time, of course you procrastinate.
So I wonder if we’re sort of creating a big problem. But I do think that procrastination can be a very real barrier to effective science communication, because science communication can be very challenging. It can be hard. It can be putting yourself outside your comfort zone, trying to explain something complex in a different way, or to a different audience that you’ve never tried before, or trying to fit in something extra into your life that you don’t necessarily have easy capacity for. You know, maybe you’ve decided to launch a podcast or write a blog, or write an article for a newspaper or whatever it is.
But the point is that finding ways not to procrastinate so that we can produce work that we’re really proud of and that we can do within reasonable timeframes without losing sleep over it. I think that’s just so important to being able to do good science communication work and to enjoying it more. Because who likes the panic monster? Not me. I hate it. Go away panic monster.

Michael (00:15:04)
Yep, absolutely. It’s interesting to also think about that there is no single one type of procrastinator. There’s lots of different variations of it, and everyone’s got their own experience. So you can have chronic procrastinators who have perpetual problems finishing tasks and then other times it might be more situational procrastination. So there might be some tasks that are really prone to procrastination, but other tasks it’s not a barrier at all.
And then even within procrastination, you know, you can procrastinate for different reasons. So it might be either from a negative state, so fear of failure or perfectionism, or it might be from a positive state, the joy of temptation, the fridge is calling to you.

Jen (00:15:51)
The magic tricks. I love magic.

Michael (00:16:53)
Or magic tricks, yeah.
Studies show that especially students, that only about 1% of uni students report they have never procrastinated.

Jen (00:16:10)
And I reckon that 1% was probably lying surely.

Michael (00:16:15)
Yeah, I would like to meet that 1%.

Jen (00:16:17)
Yeah, so would I. But I think you’re right, it can be really interesting to think about the different ways that we get into procrastinating and why we’re doing it. So there’s a really interesting type of procrastinating called self handicapping. And this is where you essentially put off starting a task until the very last possible moment, but the reason you’ve done that is interesting. The research suggests it’s because at an unconscious level, you actually find this task quite scary and you feel really inadequate. You’re worried about being judged. You’re worried you’re not going to be able to do a good job of it.
So at that point then you have two choices to make and again, this is probably subconscious. But one choice is to say, well, if I do this task and I start it in good time and I discovered that I can’t do it well and I’m going to fail, then all I’m going to have to blame is me and my skill set, I’m not good enough to do this task well. Instead, rather than having your self-esteem brought down by failing at this task, instead you fabricate a situation which guarantees that you’ll fail, i.e. you’ve left it far too late to actually start. But now you’ve got a really good excuse, just oh, I didn’t have enough time.
And it feels much less confronting personally to say, oh, I couldn’t do it well because I just didn’t have enough time, rather than having to face facts and say I’m just not good enough, I couldn’t actually do this, I don’t have the talent or the skill. And I think some of us would rather choose that option of I couldn’t do it ’cause I didn’t have enough time rather than facing facts of maybe I’m just not skilled enough yet to do this. And I guess that’s where the whole idea of different approaches of are you thinking about your ability to achieve something? Or are you thinking about the fact that you just need to practise it along the way and learn the skills? And this is a lot of what they teach kids at school now, that it’s about the learning process rather than the actual outcome. But in the short term, who wants to do something badly?

Michael (00:18:04)
Yeah. Yeah, it’s so interesting in that it’s also a paradox. You’re worried about failing and then by procrastinating you’re increasing your chances of failing as well. It is very, very complicated.
Yeah, another interesting one, a reason why we procrastinate is thrill seeking. So it’s the feeling of danger that people experience when they live on the edge of almost not making important deadlines. It’s not just an irrational feeling that you’ll perform more effectively when working under pressure. It’s actually the excitement of almost failing to complete a task. Seems to be quite addictive and for some people, or just quite desirable I suppose. And yes, some interesting research suggesting that extraverts may be thrill-seeking procrastinators more so than introverts.

Jen (00:19:01)
Yeah, and I think that one works really well until it turns from almost failing to actually failing. You know, when you, when you completely underestimate how long something is gonna take you. And we hear stories like, like this from students. Every other essay I’ve ever had to do, I’ve managed to do the night before. And just that crushing reality of realising that a thesis is not something that you can write the night before because it’s so long.
But I think another really big reason that we all have to acknowledge behind procrastination is perfectionism. And I know, a lot of the people that I interact with including myself, we would describe ourselves either as perfectionists or recovering perfectionists. And it’s pretty normal, I think. A lot of people, they’re so successful as to be studying science at a tertiary level or to be working as a scientist because they are so good at what they do.
But some of that’s come from this fear of making mistakes. And we try and avoid making mistakes, but that means that we don’t start the task because we don’t want to make the mistake. But then of course, it turns into you don’t actually produce the work. And that’s far worse than producing work that needs a bit of editing. It’s a real paradox, I think. And I think it’s something that a lot of supervisors grapple with, that you’ve got a student. You know that they’re more than capable of doing the work, but they won’t write it down, or at least they won’t show you the draft because they’re so scared of you critiquing it.

Michael (00:20:22)
Yeah, my PhD supervisor said to me once, “don’t let perfectionism get in the way of excellence”. Which I thought was quite insightful, because yeah, it’s, it’s that idea that the best thesis is a done thesis. You could probably continue to, to work on it indefinitely and at some stage you have to say okay, I’m done.

Jen (00:20:43)
And isn’t that the 80/20 rule? That you get 80% of the benefit from the first part of your work and then everything you do from there on you’re not seeing big returns, so you just have to stop. And the point is, nothing is perfect anyway, that’s what I always come back to. What’s the definition of perfect?

Michael (00:21:00)
Exactly, you never reach it. You never attain perfection.
So at some stage you have to say, okay, this is an excellent piece of work, I’m finished.

Jen (00:21:10)
Indeed, indeed.

Michael (00:21:13)
So it’s interesting then to think about okay, we’ve talked about procrastination. But what are some solid tips that we can provide? What can we actually do to help get over this barrier? So one thing that we can do is to challenge some of those irrational beliefs and to ask yourself you know, what stories are your telling yourself? So maybe you want to try and think about okay, what kind of procrastination am I doing? Am I thrill seeking or is it fear of failure? Or is it… what is actually going on behind it to try and have some introspection around that.
Some other things then that we can do are to build our confidence by… If we have a big task chopping it up into smaller tasks, and I find that really helpful. So not saying okay, I have to get all of this done by this far and distant date. Giving myself mini deadlines and how am I going to progress towards that big final deadline? Also, making barriers to action as small as possible. Some tips that I’ve heard, and I suppose this goes for anything. But with exercise for example, put your exercise shoes at the end of your bed. So as soon as you wake up in the morning, you put on your exercise shoes. And look, you can walk out of your bedroom and take your shoes off if you like. But they’re already on your feet, so maybe you might just walk out the door and go for a walk or go for a bit of a jog.

Jen (00:22:43)
I know people who go to bed in their running clothes Michael. So that when they wake up in the morning, it’s like oh, I’ve already got my running clothes on, I might as well head out the door rather than get changed again.

Michael (00:22:53)
That’s an excellent idea. Yeah, shoes and all.

Jen (00:22:57)
Probably not the shoes, but the rest of it.

Michael (00:23:00)
You could just imagine what’s the equivalent for like skiing.
Just getting into your skiing gear, skis and all.

Jen (00:23:07)
That might be a tad warm overnight.

Michael (00:23:12)
It might be. But as long as it gets over that barrier of procrastination.
Another interesting one that you mentioned to me Jen is yeah, flossing your teeth.
So I’m just going to go and floss one tooth.

Jen (00:23:26)
Exactly, exactly.

Michael (00:23:28)
I wonder if there’s a, you know, how many people have actually just gone and flossed one tooth and then gone argh, I don’t want to do the rest?

Jen (00:23:34)
I think for me, one of the most important things, and this would be part of it with the tooth flossing is just to come back to why. And we’ve talked about why on this podcast before, and I think focusing on your why is so useful in so many different situations. Because when it comes to procrastination on the one hand, it’s why do I want to do this? Why is this important to me? Why do I believe that this is worth my time? And if you can reconnect with that why, it’s really useful.
But also secondarily, why am I avoiding it? What’s going on here? What are the barriers that I’m perceiving here that are making me not do it? Is it just because I’m really tired or is it because I’ve got something else that feels like more of a priority? Or is it because I’m scared that I’ll make mistakes or I’ll be judged or whatever it is?
And, and I think once you’re clear on your why it can make a really big difference. And for me also, public commitments, public deadlines. I mean, they don’t have to be public, you can just tell yourself. But setting some deadlines, I think that really, really works for me. We know that if you track your progress, you record your progress and then reward yourself when you make some progress. All of that is, is super helpful for me.
But I think the main thing I’ve learned is this idea that we always wait for motivation to strike, particularly in science. I’ll start writing when I feel like I’m ready. And of course, we know that you’re never probably gonna feel ready. You have to accept that motivation follows action. So by taking action on a task, particularly one that we’ve been avoiding, it’s the taking action and doing something, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes that then leads us to feel motivated because you’re probably never going to feel like you want to do it.
And there’s a great Dorothy Parker quote, who says, “I don’t like writing. I like having written”. And that just sums it up beautifully. Who sits down and thinks yay, I’m so excited I get to write today? I mean on a good day maybe, but I think it’s just a matter of you have to start, even if it’s just for two minutes. So you say to yourself, I’m going to sit here and I’m going to write for three minutes. And if at that point in time I’ve decided I can’t do it or I hate it, I’m allowed to stop. But probably at that point you’ll feel better about it ’cause you’ve made a start.
And this is something I learned from James Clear. I’m sure many of our listeners will have heard of James Clear. He’s got a fantastic book called Atomic Habits. He’s got a newsletter, the 321 newsletter which you can subscribe to, comes into your inbox every week. He argues that it’s the most wisdom per word of any newsletter on the Internet because it’s very concise, but it’s full of good tips like that of just: You have to start, then you’ll feel motivated. Track your progress. Give yourself rewards.
I always think of it as treating yourself like a toddler. I make star charts for myself when I really have a big task to do. And seeing the stars add up over the, over the sheet makes me feel better about myself and then I want to do it more.

Michael (00:26:21)
Yeah, and it’s quite empowering, isn’t it? So rather than waiting for motivation to just come into your life, that if you start a task that might actually ignite your motivation and get you to continue on with it.

Jen (00:26:36)

Michael (00:26:37)
Yeah, and I mean things like the Pomodoro method are really useful for that. So that’s essentially where you’ll say okay, I’m only going to do 25 minutes of work and then I’m going to have 5 minutes of a break and you do 25 and 5 on and off. And yeah look, it’s really great for just getting a start on that piece of work.
Some other tips then would be you know, if you are the type who is procrastinating because you’re thrill seeking to maybe find your thrills in other ways or stop flirting with danger. So I think what you do there is you don’t focus on those times you just barely escape with it. But maybe focus on times where you might have miscalculated and you actually got in a little bit of trouble. So you don’t romanticise those times where you just barely escaped and yet be realistic about how long things actually take.

Jen (00:27:29)
Longer than you think. Triple it, that’s my experience.
I think for me also, it’s about really blocking access to distractions. For me, if I’m serious about getting something done. Ideally I’ve set it up so that I can really hit the ground running. I’ve left my work in a state that I feel positive about coming back to it. I know Roald Dahl, I think it was always used to say that you don’t stop writing when you lose interest or it feels hard, you stop writing when it’s going well so you’ve got something positive to come back to.
And then for me, my phone has to go into another room. I have to turn the Wi-Fi off if I can. And sometimes I have a guest login on my computer. So I log in as a guest and I don’t have anything on my desktop, I don’t have anything set up, there’s just nothing there. There are lots of online tools. So I have a tool I like called Cold Turkey Writer which basically turns your computer into pretty much just a typewriter using, tell it for a certain amount of time or a certain number of words. You don’t want to have access to anything on your computer. You just have to sit there and type. And there’s so many tools like that there’s write or die. A lot of them are gimmicky, but they can really help.
But I think the other thing that’s really stayed with me from reading about procrastination is this idea of self forgiveness. There’s clear research to show that if you procrastinate and then beat yourself up over the fact that you’re procrastinating, you’re more likely to procrastinate again because you just feel bad about yourself and bad about the task. Whereas if you’re a bit more gentle with yourself and a bit kinder, and you say well, what a shame it was that I procrastinated but I can kind of understand why. I’ve had a rough time lately or there was this great activity that I really wanted to do. It’s okay, I forgive myself, I’m going to be compassionate with myself. And the research suggests that that does a really good thing. It leaves you feeling less ashamed, less guilty, less anxious, that you’re feeling more positive about yourself and your ability to get tasks done. And that then prevents this extra layer of barrier that is your own self hatred. So I think we just need to be a bit kinder to ourselves.

Michael (00:29:30)
Yeah, and it stops that snowballing effect, I would imagine of yeah, just getting more and more worried about procrastinating and not doing it.
What a lovely message to finish on Jen, but I think we’re going to have to move to the next part of the podcast. So it’s now time for the student tips.

Caitlin (00:29:54)
Hi, my name is Caitlin and I’m currently studying my Master of Science in Atmospheric Science and I’m researching carbon monoxide emissions from the black summer bushfires.
I’ve struggled with procrastination and I’m definitely the least productive when I’m tired and burnt out. So therefore, my top tip to battle procrastination is to take a break. For me, this looks like blocking out my day into work and rest time and making sure that I never combine the two. I find that by scheduling rest, I’ve something to look forward to during the day and I get more done when I’m working. I like to use Google Calendar to create a schedule that not only has my commitments such as classes and meetings, but it also specifies tasks that I need to do during the day; and I will schedule in when I’m not doing work and doing something fun.
I recommend looking for signs of burnout, such as procrastinating more as a time when you need to assess whether you need to recharge. Taking a proper rest can leave you more productive in the long run. During busy periods, it can be really hard to prioritise this rest. But I find that taking a rest early on means you can achieve more in the long run. I know this advice won’t be practical for everyone, but I’ve found that being conscious of the signs of burnout and understanding exactly why I’m procrastinating could be really useful when working on a long term goals such as completing my masters.

Lily (00:31:23)
Hi, my name is Lily and I’m an environmental science graduate currently working as a guide in Tasmania. I, like many of you, am a chronic victim of the dangerous beast, procrastination. In fact, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have procrastinated recording this clip for you today. We’ve all been there. And I’m going to share some of the strategies that help me persevere and tackle procrastination every day.
First and most importantly, start. Start writing that paragraph you say you’ll do later. Start reading that book. Start cooking that incredible dessert. You never know where starting something could end. Each start you make is a step against the pool to procrastinate.
And secondly, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfectionism is a devilish supporter of procrastination. Start your essay and within those sentences you hate, there will be some absolute gems.
And lastly, organise something to look forward to, whether it be a dinner with friends or a swim at the beach. Use this as motivation to complete those things you’re procrastinating so you can truly relax afterwards. Nothing kills procrastination like a deadline and no deadline is better than one where you can have fun.

Michael (00:33:56)
Thanks for listening. That’s all for Season 2 and I want to say a big thank you to our production team Stephanie Wong and Steven Tang for making these episodes happen behind the scenes.
Thanks also to you, our listener, for sharing our episodes online and for providing us with lovely feedback. We’ll be back in your feed later in May with Season 3. But until then, stay tuned.