Monday, February 27, 2012

79. The tyranny of procrastination.

The problem of procrastination in graduate school is, in part, a problem of perception. When you could be working anytime and all the time (see Reason 62), it can feel like you’re procrastinating when you’re doing anything else. Reading for pleasure, spending time with family and friends, cooking, exercising, and even sleeping (see Reason 78) are hard to enjoy when you’re saddled with the feeling that you should be working instead. Of course, if what you’re doing has the slightest appearance of procrastination to you, it may well look that way to someone else. In the event that your department can only fund half of its graduate students next year (see Reason 17), you don't want to be the one that your departmental chair sees sauntering into a Tuesday matinee as she happens to drive by the movie theater.

But there is also real procrastination. We procrastinate when we are faced with tasks that we do not want to do. Graduate students are masters of procrastination. You can hardly blame them for their reluctance to dive into a pile of ungraded freshman essays (see Reason 56), but they are often just as reluctant to dive into a day of writing. That is because academic writing can be profoundly unpleasant (see Reason 28). Sometimes they procrastinate by turning on the television, but more often than not they create diversionary work for themselves by reading one more book, looking up ten more articles, or spending an extra week in the archives -->all in the name of “research.” Sitting down and writing is the only way out of graduate school with a degree, but the great difficulty with which so many graduate students approach this task is your first clue (and often their first clue) that they don’t actually like what they are doing. Unfortunately, procrastination simply prolongs their misery.



56 comments:

  1. There is so much procrastination everywhere in grad school. You see it everywhere from how long it takes people to reply to emails to people missing important deadlines for things like dissertation proposals, funding applications, and comps exams.

    Procrastination is so common it is normalized in academic culture - yet it is not discussed openly nor are efforts made to address it through educating students about time management and project planning. Instead, a whole culture has developed to accommodate the procrasination. Deadlines are almost always extendable, and everyone can qualify for special treatment for this reason or that.

    Of course the long term effect of this procrastination results in lengthy completion times or worse, drop-outs years after they should have finished. Who hasn't known grad students still completing degrees that should have been done five years sooner? Yet depts make exceptions for these people too, even if university policies say that these people should have been kicked out years sooner according to university policy. Maybe they'll get around to it at some point....

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    1. Just want to note that at my university, the profs are every bit as bad about procrastination and the grad students. Try getting feedback on your work, setting up an appointment...really anything. Faculty don't care about their own deadlines for papers, committee work, mentees' needs, so they model procrastination for us.

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  2. Most psychology about procrastination argues that we delay work when we fear the results will be inadequate. So, it usually has more to do with self-doubt than lack of interest.

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    1. I have heard this many times, usually in the form of blaming procrastination on "perfectionism," but I don't know if that's really what keeps people from working. If you really enjoy doing something, you do it even if it's really hard or requires a lot of practice, patience, and skill. You find excuses to do it, not excuses not to do it.

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    2. I think the perfectionism is definitely a part of many of our experiences with procrastination. Not always, but quite often. So is the part where writing is hard, and doing it well takes a lot of time, meaning it's hardly ever good without a lot of revisions, showing your advisor your sub-optimal work, etc. Even if you want to do research that can be debilitating if you have internalized that things you are good at should come easy and without a lot of effort.

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    3. In my experience you can also like what you do and not feel perfectionistic about it but still procrastinate. I think this kind of procrastination is about delayed gratification. I can learn cool things about my topic, but that could take reading ten articles and re-reading a few old ones and talking to my advisor a few times before I actually manage to learn something cool. But reading a chapter of a good novel, that's fun right away.

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    4. Enjoyment is not always stronger than perceptions of fear and inner conflict. Plus after 4+ years of working on the same topic I'd say 80% of PhDs will come to not enjoy it, or even hate the topic, therefore making it harder to work on it. Its self-discipline at times, more than enjoying it.

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  3. Thank you, 100 Reasons, for putting words to what I experience all the time as a graduate student. Writing a dissertation is an absolutely daunting task. I would much rather search for materials or read articles and books than sit down and write. It is easy to convince myself that I need to read this or that before writing, but more often than not, all those articles have very little impact upon what I am writing. Reading is much more enjoyable than writing -- it involves consuming words and processing thoughts -- it is much more passive than writing. It is a terrifying task to create words out of nothing. Add to that the pressure of producing something “original” and worthwhile, and the overwhelming task of the dissertation can become paralyzing. I would rather grade papers, create lesson plans, read hundreds of books related to my research, than sit down and toil through writing a paragraph of my dissertation. “Diversionary work” as a method of procrastination is an absolutely perfect term for what I go through every day.

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  4. This is absolutely true! I've been working at least 30 hours per week (on an off campus) while in graduate school, which has been a blessing in disguise: while I'm exhausted all the time, there's little time left to procrastinate and I end up getting things done much earlier than those who work hold 10-20 hour per week appointments. It's also astounded me that professors' and grad students' inboxes will be full of unopened emails several weeks or months old. In the non-academic sector (even in administrative offices I work for on my university's campus), that's something you can't get away with. Then again, the rigid structure of these environments helps keep people on task.

    I also think it's a good point that we procrastinate because we fear our work will be inadequate. In my particular program, I've stopped caring about what my professors and peers think of my work, as I'm close to the end and just want to get done (I've decided to work in the private sector once I finish). Having the "graduation" as opposed to the "produce original work" goal in mind has been extremely liberating.

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  5. I agree with all of this post except for one point. I'm not sure that it is, or was for myself, at least, easier to do research than to write.

    In fact, the potentially limitless nature of humanities research was much more anxiety-ridden than just throwing up on paper (or MS Word).

    I think the problem was that often, a person doing a research topic really has no idea what s/he wants to write about, what the thesis of the paper should be, where s/he should look for sources, which sources are authoritative, what kind of material will sound impressive or worthy of a good grade, etc.

    Frankly, by the time I had a rough understanding of those points and was ready to sit down and formulate thoughts or write, the "writing" had already been done in my head after 20-40+ hours of research and reading every potential aspect of a topic.

    Come to think of it, academic writing is a lot like binge eating followed by bulimia.

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    1. here here! That's how I feel now. I'm researching and I feel anxious for when I the research will be done so I can start writing. When I'm not researching, I'm anxious about how much time is left to get the research and writing done. Both of these anxieties make me feel miserable and much more inclined to watch 3 hours of television series (or surf 3 hours on the internet, or read 3 hours of books that have nothing to do with the thesis) than actually researching and writing...bah!

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  6. The private sector STEM-based company for which I work often sells equipment to STEM graduate students (and professors). We make a good living at this, and part of our success is due to the perception that we offer great customer service. While we are happy that we have this reputation, it has been largely earned by our unremarkable effort to always respond to the customer on the same day that we receive an inquiry from the customer.

    Sometimes, it takes us several hours to research and respond to a technical inquiry. We view a delay of more than about 4 hours as a really long delay and "bad" customer service. But even in these "bad" cases, our academic customers invariably thank us profusely for giving them such "quick" service in response to their question. We call it "doing our job", but to them, it seems amazing.

    The glacial pace at which our academic customers move is truly a sight to behold. They will ask for a price quote, we will send it to them immediately, and then we won't hear back from them for months. Then, we contact them months later to ask if they still want to purchase the quoted item, and they say "oh, I nearly forgot about that...thanks for reminding me", and then within 24 hours we have a purchase order for multiple thousands of dollars. It's as if we awoke them from a long slumber.

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  7. Procrastination indeed.

    Job - it'll somehow materialize after I graduate so I'll start looking then.
    Relationship - Best to not get too invested as he/she might get in the way of my career.
    Family - They'll still be there when I'm done
    Money - I'll make so much as a professor I'll make up for all those years of lost income
    House/car - I'll never buy into such material things.
    Plan B - I'll devise one when I need to

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    1. I wasn't sure of what to say, one way or the other, to this post...but this somewhat sums up my Graduate experience, at least with regards to Job, Money, and Plan B.

      I still managed to gain a Relationship (I met my wife while attending Grad School), and now that I have gobs of debt, I'm in no position to buy a house...and, although I found a Job, I'm still perplexed as to what Plan B should be.

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    2. Every single of those points applies to me. My Plan B was the family's small trade business, until it was wiped out by the downturn.

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    3. There are some people who are that clueless, but there are many more who are not and do not procrastinate, who still get lumbered with the epithet.

      We live in an extremely intolerant world where most people will not make the distinction between 'procrastination' and external problems.

      Let's take a look at this list.
      On relationships - "best not to get too invested as s/he might get in the way of my career" - people adopt this perspective because frequently this *does* happen. And when it happens, everything else (home, car, family, money, alternate plans) becomes that much more difficult to afford and manage. Relationships are a trap. They are a luxury. Given the US' "modern" "enlightened" views on judicial intervention in relationships, they have become something that males in particular can no longer afford.

      The other items - family, money, house/car, alternate plans - necessarily have to take a back burner to one's job and career goals. Some of these come with financial stability, but not before it.

      The student can do something about a job and possibly about researching "Plan B." If the job in question detracts from the student's capacity to realize a career goal, then it may not be in the best interest of the student. "Plan B" can be researched but more often than not requires additional capital to put into action. Most students are already indebted and have limited access to capital.

      On a personal note, as I age into "Plan F" I suspect that Fitzgerald was right when he wrote that "there are no second acts in American lives." Perhaps devising Plan B not only conditions the planner to failure with Plan A, but also relegates the planner to a lifetime of alternatives for which the Great American Scheme has no tolerance.

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  8. The only reason procrastination is such a problem is because academia is notorious for allowing it.

    Can't procrastinate in the real world. Be lazy there, be fired tomorrow.

    The 9th year PhD student is obviously procrastinating. But then again they may be teaching students or researching assisting so the university is keeping them on for the cheap labor. They can have a Mike Slackenerny (from PhDComics) who is taking forever to finish. The university doesn't care about the degree progress, they will fund him as long as he is cheaper than hiring a full time assistant professor.
    So universities actually WANT you to procrastinate and take advantage of the cheap labor for doing so.

    A good reason to not go to graduate school.

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  9. How so true! I've spent a year working on this stupid thesis (I just let it sit there on the desk without actually working on it). I'm sick of looking at the same sentences and citations over and over again. So I sent the thing back to the prof after yet another round of "corrections". I don't want to see it again. I've already decided that this particular line of scholarship isn't for me. But I'm too deep in this game to give it all up now--partly because I don't want to go back to what I was doing before.

    As for journal articles: Why do PhDs write so poorly? And what's the point of writing an article that only 42 people in the entire world are going to read?

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  10. You got 42 people to read an article?!? Surely that figure is missing a decimal....

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  11. No, the number is figurative. How many profs of semiotics are there, for example?

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  12. How many people subscribe to the American Journal of Semiotics, for example? That's what I was alluding to.

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    1. What does this question signify?

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  13. Procrastination is definitely an issue. There's always tomorrow...

    This will be my last semester in academe (wooo!), as I'm defending this May and moving on. My adviser is retired, but very concerned with his legacy. He doesn't like my leaving the academic world and keeps pressuring me to publish. He calls my dissertation "the book," as if I'm going to publish it as a tenure book. It's been difficult actually to get him to schedule my defense: I really think he was dragging his feet about it in the hope that I changed my mind. He's been pushing me harder, with the tacit assumption that there's always more time. But I'm not accepting that: I'm done this May and that's that. There will be no more perpetual tomorrow.

    Finishing this dissertation is not easy either. When I was in procrastination mode, I left a lot of loose ends. Finishing now, for real, means I can't leave things hanging like I used to. Funny enough, that makes it easier to write in some ways. I'm writing more definitively now, since I'm in the home stretch. I have actually outlined the dissertation paragraph by paragraph and I'm just going through and revising/writing what the outlines tell me to do and it's working (I've never been the type to do this before). The idea of finishing provides its own momentum. One of the things I don't like about academe is the moribund inertia of it all. You physically sit in one place, slowly plodding through your work. But you do this mentally too. Once you get moving, though, things start to seem a lot different.

    Procrastination seems like another one of those harmless idiosyncrasies of the academic lifestyle that is actually a big deal. As Phd Accounting says, its also a way to retain cheap labor by keeping grad students in that limbo state of promise.

    As a grad student you're always on the threshold of something real but never quite getting there. Then you realize that you've burnt up a serious chunk of your life on tomorrows that you'll never get back writing about something hopelessly obscure and many things seem meanwhile to have passed you by.

    Happily, though, it's never too late to get out (degree or not).

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  14. This is a really hard one for me. I am 95% done at this point, with just the defense to do before I graduate. I thought by this point I'd be feeling elated that I am actually going graduate, but instead I feel really embarrassed that it took me so long. I did no work for two years of my degree, mostly for BS reasons. I had entire summers to write this damn project, and I just didn't. I really regret wasting all that time. I didn't even go out and have fun, I just sat around and didn't work. In a way I feel at the lowest point of my academic career right now.

    The only thing that got me to stop procrastinating was starting a full time job. Having basically no unstructured time anymore was the only thing that got me to write once a week, every week, without fail. I'm hoping I'll start feeling proud of my achievement again at some point, but right now I just feel like an idiot, shaking my head about all the unnecessary anxiety I endured as a result of procrastinating for two years.

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    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes I curse my former self for not doing work. As I revise my chapters and see how bad they are and how much work it's taking me to get them into shape, there is plenty of room for regret. But on the other hand, though that time's gone and not coming back, I just tell myself that there's no use in worrying about it now. I spent a decent amount of time doing nothing too, but I really think I was being aimless I didn't realize I didn't want to do this work. It took me a long time to figure that out, and when I did it didn't really help.

      The only thing that stopped me procrastinating was setting a defense date. Suddenly, I wrote an intro to my dissertation that made sense, revised it so that it was sharp as a tack, and now I'm using it to get everything else together. I was aimless then because I didn't know what I wanted to do, and sunk into the cloud of unknowing just letting time pass by. This was not a good thing to do, but it was the easy thing, and I focused on what I did like to do like becoming a really good teacher so it felt like I was being productive. That was also the way I realized that I didn't like the isolation of academia and preferred working more with people (though not children and yes, college kids are children; in fact academia is very childish in many ways which I don't like--it took me a long time to figure these things out).

      I'm willing to bet that like me, you have your reasons for wasting that period of time. It happens (and not just to grad students). I sometimes think about my future paying off these loans for years, and I know my future self is not always going to think it was money well spent (likely never will). On the other hand, think of it this way: you can make as much money as your academic friends and not have to put up with being in academia. That's at least relatively a bonus.

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  15. On this Leap Day 2012 and the 220th anniversary of the birth of the opera composer Gioachino Rossini (an occasion that Google has helpfully reminded us all of today), it seems appropriate to post a link here to an article about Rossini's chronic procrastination:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/2012/0229/Gioachino-Rossini-procrastinator-extraordinaire

    It should give hope to procrastinators everywhere. Even working at the very last minute, Rossini was able to churn out amazing music!

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  16. Yeah, as Anon @9:30 pointed out, don't forget about professors also being procrastinators themselves. We had at least one professor in the department who would wait until the plane ride to a conference to actually write her conference paper, and it was always crap.

    Also, any time I needed something from the professors, they would wait until last minute and do a shoddy job, or put it off long enough that they forgot about it under the piles of crap on their desks.

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  17. Professors certainly do procrastinate and come up with crap. One prof in our department procrastined writing a girl's MA question so long and then came up with the following to throw this essay question at her on exam day:

    ---
    In the nineteenth century, concerns about gender regularly took center stage whenever social and psychological realities were negotiated. Pick three texts from your reading list and write an essay in which you discuss and compare how representations of gender can be said to reflect varying social-psychological circumstances. Include in your answer some thoughts on how aesthetic form (including prescriptions from aesthetic movements as well as genre norms, metaphors etc.) can be said to interact with representations of gender.
    ---

    Imagine being locked in a room for 2 hours having to respond to such utter crap and typical academic gobbledygook.

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  18. Procrastinating itself is a miserable experience. I know all too well about letting a thesis sit on a desk for weeks or months untouched as you constantly find other work to occupy you. All that time, though, there is the nagging, irksome semi-nausea that never lets you forget how much you have to do, how much you hate doing it, and how pointless it all is.

    You can't escape the work, even when you're not doing it. When you are doing it, you're a wreck. When you aren't doing it, you're a wreck. (Sometimes you're a mildly disguised wreck to the world, but a wreck just the same.) Procrastination sucks the joy out of everything, so you might as well do the work. You know that. It doesn't matter. You hate the work so much that you keep putting it off. It's a vicious cycle.

    This should all function to alert you to the fact that you're probably in the wrong line of work, but there is too much pressure on you to finish, so you stick with it through all of the cycles of procrastination and furious work until you either finish or completely burn out trying. Either way, it's a long, stress-inducing, joyless ride.

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  19. Ah yes, procrastination. This is where I am right now - I have my prelim exam portfolio due in five weeks ("the culmination of your graduate school coursework," as the profs in my department say), and I haven't even begun to revise yet.

    I know I'm not writing the dissertation. I made that decision a while back. But yesterday while sitting in a particularly worthless seminar, I thought to myself, do I even need to go ABD if I'm not writing the dissertation? Does it matter to anybody outside the academy if I write "ABD" as opposed to "Three years of coursework" on my CV? My common sense says "no," but there's that little voice in my head wondering if I'll be turned down for a job I might really want because they'll see that I didn't even get through my prelim portfolio exams. Thoughts, anybody?

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    1. This is a tough one. ABD ("all but dissertation") is probably meaningless to people outside of academia. Inside academia, it's not exactly a badge of honor. Ph.D.'s are a dime-a-dozen now, so to be an ABD just makes you that much less employable. It might help you to get hired at some out of the way community colleges if that is what you have in mind. Otherwise, ABD's are only hired when they can show that they are close to finishing their dissertations. The exams might be worth it if they make you feel better about the time you spent, though.

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    2. Yeah I agree, if you're looking for jobs outside academia, they won't care about your qualifying exams, oral exam(s), etc. I feel like most people outside of academia don't even know these things exist. Most of my relatives, friends, and family friends thought that my time in grad school was just "extended college" where all I did was take a bunch of extra classes.

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    3. I work in the private sector and have a masters degree. To me, my coworkers and my industry "ABD" means "didn't finish". If you have a masters then ABD means you have a masters. If you somehow are ABD without a masters, then you're just a BS with no experience.

      Prior to this post if someone would have claimed a human being went ABD on purpose I'd have told them they were crazy.

      Kyle

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  20. For some light relief here is a funny about procrastination
    http://caroleschatter.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/cartoon_23.html

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  21. Courage can overcome procrastination.

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  22. "Courage can overcome procrastination."

    Thanks for the tip, Marcus Aurelius.

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  23. I just discovered your blog--through a comment in "The Chronicle of Higher Education," of all ironies--and I LOVE IT. Thank you so much for what you do. You're doing an incredible public service. I identify with so many things on this list. Please do keep up the good work!

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  24. Outsider here.

    I gather that a few American universities grant their more hopeless ADBs a Master of Philosophy degree and send them on their way. University of Utah does this I think?

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  25. Oh, crud...I meant "ABD" of course.

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  26. I want to post something here, but I keep putting it off.

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  27. You know I've done a lot of arguing on the Internet, and I've encountered a lot of self-pity. But if this blog isn't the biggest pit of whiny, self-aggrandizing white people problems, I don't know what is. It's eminently clear that this website is NOT for convincing people thinking about graduate education not to go. It is, instead, a place for people to whinge endlessly about how the world has not unfolded itself in a way that reflects and rewards their bountiful genius. Sorry, gang.

    What's so funny is that so many of the comments say things about "growing up" or "the real world," but absolutely everything here is animated by a resentment that is inherently childish. Our anonymous sage here is unhappy that life is not a bed of roses. Speaking as someone who was orphaned in childhood: grow up. No choice you could have made would have left you pleased, given the inherently romanticized and childish worldview demonstrated in these posts. (You think the drones who squeeze themselves into cubicles are happy because they make $40K? Have you met any of those people lately?)

    I'm in a funded grad program. For my little field, it's one of the best or the best program. True, there's very little money. But there's very little money anywhere. What do you guys think? Do you think that there are well-paying jobs out there, that you would be occupying now if you weren't in grad school? Opportunity cost implies opportunity, and there isn't any.

    There's a chance, as there is for all of us, that I'll emerge without a job. And you know what? I'll be in exactly the same boat I was before I went to school, just with the memory of five years of enjoyment, contemplation, and (yes) fulfillment. If I don't get a job, I won't make a blog and whine endlessly about it. Nobody ever promised me anything. If you thought you had found a golden ticket, that's a flaw in your maturity, not in someone else or some other institution. Sometimes, both your parents die of cancer. Sometimes grad school isn't everything that you dreamed of. Life's not fair. Grow up.

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    1. A) You do a lot of arguing on the internet? What, as a hobby or something? Clearly the mark of a well-adjusted individual.

      B) I did not know graduate school and academia were exclusively for white people.

      C) This isn't about complaining that life isn't a bed of roses. It's a recognition that many of us made a decision we regret. We feel misled and wish that among that chorus of trusted voices telling us that graduate school is a wonderful career choice, someone had been there to caution us about said decision. So we pay it forward by sharing our experiences.

      D) Why did you mention losing your parents? I'm sure orphanhood sucks. So do human trafficking, addiction, and physical disability. But instead of simply mentioning an extreme that is worse than grad school, you personalized it. If you feel that the blog has failures, that should stand on its own. Trying to diminish the complaints and opinions of others because their lot isn't as difficult as yours is the very definition of self-pity.


      You're bitter. We get it. Grow up.

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    2. I'm not going to respond to the original comment, as I think that Anonymous 8:25 did a good job.

      However, I'm curious to know - did you really have a chorus of trusted voices telling you that graduate school is a wonderful career choice? I had a crowd of people screaming at me NOT to go. Every graduate student I talked to, every professor and trusted advisor, urged me not to go unless I could get into a top program with full funding. Luckily, I did, and so I am going to go - but feeling forewarned that I signed up for a long, long road with no definitive job prospects. I have been warned no less than 30 times now that the chances of finding a TT job are miniscule; that I will end up hating my diss topic; that academia doesn't pay. This is the same advice that I will be passing on to eager undergrads when the time comes and I'm in a position to give that advice.

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    3. Anon. 8:25 here. Perhaps "a wonderful career choice" may have been a mischaracterization on my part -- better would be to call it a career choice that allows for a professional life that I found greatly appealing.

      I was an undergraduate at a well-known university, in a department with a small faculty composed almost entirely of tenured positions. The one non-TT position in the department was a multi-year contract position usually occupied for a single year by an individual who then left to begin a TT job at another university. I realize *now* that this is not the norm.

      When I decided to go to graduate school, I did have a couple of people (graduate students or ABDs holding positions at the university) caution me about what I was getting into. However, their comments had little to do with the job market or academia as a career -- instead, they focused on the unpleasantness of the workload in graduate school. I can handle unpleasant.

      The faculty, on the other hand, while reiterating the difficulties of graduate school, always presented them as obstacles to be conquered, and spent the majority of their time with me discussing the wonderful lifestyle of being a tenured professor and living the life of the mind. And there was evidence for it -- they clearly lived and enjoyed the life of the mind while maintaining beautiful houses and a great degree of personal and financial independence. The only dissenting voice was one professor who told me I'd never finish because I lacked the mettle.

      No one -- not one -- talked to me about the statistical realities of the economic job market. About the cost of spending years of one's life "investing" in a career, only to find that career all but unavailable and oneself all but unemployable in other sectors. About the emotional, social, and psychological costs of failure and success alike in graduate school.

      Either way, I wish I'd had something like this blog available to me years ago.

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    4. What he means by "white people" problems is the clear class perspective that happens frequently on this blog. Most posters here come from middle class backgrounds from what I can tell, not lower class. Most professors too.

      Most seemed to be under some kind of delusion that grad school would offer "upper middle class" income status. The fact that it doesn't causes a lot of bitterness which this blog expresses.

      Someone from a lower class background is going to look at the life of even a struggling academic and think he or she has things pretty sweet.

      I would argue, though, that grad school does make one relatively secure within the middle class, even if in the lower end of it, but moreso than you would be without it - and income is only one of the class factors to class factors to consider.

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    5. I enjoyed grad school a lot. Some of the best times of my life were in grad school. Met great people, had great opportunities, and they paid me to do it. I got to travel and see quite a bit of the world, teach some amazing students, get to really understand a lot about my field, and I did it all when I was young, free, and single. Go me.

      It wasn't easy though, and looking back on it now, some of it just sucked. When things get tough it's nice to have a place to blow off steam, and in the case of this blog, perhaps receive support from others who've been there and made it through. The fact that you don't seem to recognize something that fundamental doesn't say much for your ability to have compassion or empathy for others. And yet they let you teach, I bet.

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    6. I finished my thesis and graduated in May, but now I am being hounded to publish and find it extremely upsetting and aggravating. I still feel as stressed out as I did before graduation because of this paper. I am working on it as "Payback" for using one of the professor's data.

      I find reading everyone's comments about procrastination, anxiety, and suffering rather comforting, knowing that I'm not the only one that had to all this awfulness going on. I don't find it as whining at all, and I thank all of your for your stories.

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  28. International StudentMarch 14, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Procrastination was made worse for me by my unrealistic beliefs about what writing a dissertation would be like...

    I remember being joyful at becoming ABD because I thought how I could write my dissertation on warm afternoons in the park, or at my favorite coffee shop, or on lazy Sunday afternoons at the beautiful public library...the fantasy that many of us have about writing. But of course it turned out that I got too distracted in these environments, and I might have 2 pages to show for 6 hours of work, and 2 mediocre pages at that. The only way I was going to get this dissertation written was by sitting my butt in an office chair and writing for hours and hours, alone, until your back hurts and your neck hurts and you've had too much sugar or coffee or both. The only place I could focus for long periods was the library basement, and it was so depressing there that I put off going for months at a time. I realized that this was the only place my dissertation would get written and I couldn't face it. As a result I am in 6th year of ABD.

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  29. Faculty don't care about their own deadlines for papers, committee work, mentees' needs, so they model procrastination for us.

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  30. I am a first year undergrad and am highly unmotivated right now. I used to handle procrastination to a decent degree, but slowly I am being sucked into the black hole of misery where I cannot begin anything and end up waking up at 4am. I've been considering on tackling the source of procrastination by analyzing my past self and present self. There's not much data to work with since I've only entered the higher academic journey, but technology has side-tracked me the most. There are more factors and I hope to use them to overcome procrastination. Reading the above comments may have been sad, but I find it productive. Thanks for the insights.

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  31. I just finished my PhD in Dec, 2011.

    What helped me overcome the crippling procrastination was a simple quote that I stuck on the top of my monitor - "What would you do if you weren't scared?"

    Each time you catch yourself procrastinating, ask yourself that question, and then just do it. It sounds so simple, and really it is.

    It worked for me anyways, and now I'm an aimless PhD grad who's both over and under qualified for every job I apply for.

    Get out while you still can, I finished just because "finish what you started" was instilled in me. It is not something I will instill in my children. Knowing when something isn't right and doing something about it is far superior to sticking it out only to end up with a degree you hate.

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    1. Thank you for that quote. I am definitely going to be tacking it to my monitor, too.

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  32. Okay I am going to stop reading this blog and get back to my paper! I don't want to be an ABD for the rest of my life!!!!

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  33. most common procrastinating aid for grad students is booze- especially in one's alone time.

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  34. Procrastination can result in loss of opportunities.It is not good.

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  35. This one is true...when you are in grad school you have so much work you can't enjoy doing anything else, and that makes you hate your academic work.

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