Quality Leadership Matters Blog


Procrastinating like a Pro in Grad School

May 23rd, 2018 by


Procrastinating like a Pro in Grad School

Chandler Patton Miranda

Ph.D. Candidate at NYU in Educational Leadership

“While procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity.”

Adam Grant, The New York Times

I am two and a half-years into my full-time Ph.D. program at NYU and have been working at a break-neck speed. Still, I enjoy a fantastic social life in Brooklyn, find time for exercise, volunteer at a hospital with my dog, and my husband still likes me most of the time. That is not to say my journey has not been filled with nights where you can find me crying on the kitchen floor. Nevertheless, after 32 years of life and almost 20 years of schooling I have mastered one very important skill that allows me to keep my life from falling apart most of the time: Procrastinating like a pro!

Make lists for everything. Outline your life.

I hope that most of you begin a paper with an outline. An outline is the key to a well-organized paper as well as a well-organized life. My favorite way to procrastinate is to make lists. About everything. I am talking about grocery lists, chores around the house lists, things I might want to write about when I am 50 lists, the craft projects I want to do in my free time list (yeah right), even what to pack in my gym bag so I get to work fully dressed.  

After the lists are made, I create an outline for my day. It includes reading and writing goals, activity goals (like 10,000 steps or standing on my head), and social goals (this is a super isolating process so make I time to talk with friends and family). Finally, doing one thing a day to keep my life on track prevents it from falling apart. I pay a bill, clean the bathroom, or meal plan for the week. You may think, “I don’t have time for that!” Well, continue reading my friend.

Find hidden time.

This is the first time in my life that I have gone to school full-time and worked part time. In high school, college, and for my master’s degree I worked either part-time or full-time at all sorts of different jobs. It really does not matter. You always feel like you don’t have enough time, but you may have more time that you think. It is just hiding from you. You might think sleeping or going for a run is a waste of precious time. You would be wrong. These are key components to procrastinating professionally.

This is going to sound crazy to you, but getting more sleep helps you find hidden time. Precious time is lost when you are in a post writing/ studying daze and are walking around like a zombie. Seriously, take a nap. Taking time out for exercise is another counterintuitive piece of advice but with scientific backing: Exercise helps you find time. You can give your brain a reboot in just 7 minutes. Exercise can also keep you from eating your feelings; indulging in sugary or salty snacks because you are feeling stressed can cause sluggishness and fatigue as well. I often close my door and exercise in my office, or, if your brain needs a change of scenery, you can also just go for a quick walk.

When you can’t read anymore, listen.

At the beginning of the semester make a list of the books you need to read for coursework or for your study. See which of those books you can get in an audio format. This allows you to find hidden time. Listening to books is another key to professional procrastination. You can “read” while driving, walking the dog, cooking dinner, or cleaning the bathroom. Your professors will be shocked that you actually did all the assigned reading and more. Don’t tell them about your 21st century magic trick. Just bask in the glory of being a professional procrastinator with a very clean bathroom. Whip out a Tupperware full of your home cooking to conjure even more shock and awe.  

Read broadly. Consume media in many forms.

Don’t just listen to books. There are amazing documentaries, op-docs, podcasts, and iTunesU courses that relate to your topic or to education and politics more generally. They may not be as funny as Modern Family but they make you a better scholar and help you think more broadly about your topic. I also read the New York Times and the New Yorker every week. Journalists are objectively much better writers than most academics. Read good writing and you will become a better writer too.

Don’t take my word for it.

During my first week of grad school someone shared this blog with me. It was a game changer. Her advice, take one day off a week. Read more advice on how to get a doctoral degree and have a life here.

Leave a Reply