Procrastination – we all do it (admittedly or not admittedly) and we presumably all hate that we’re doing it. I’m doing it right now. Tuesday evening we Southamptoners were lucky enough to enjoy a talk by Jorge Cham, the creative mind of PhD comics. His presentation was called “The Power of Procrastination” and like the comics just hits the nail on its head. Very often I find myself thinking or saying to someone “Oh my god, I could be and should be doing work right now and I won’t even have any time to sleep anymore” and find myself browsing the internet five minutes later. But Jorge’s talk gave me a new viewpoint on the whole topic and can probably help keeping many PhD students sane.
In my opinion the most important point of the talk was that procrastination has always been a source of creativity and Eureka moments. If you’re focussing too hard on solving a problem it can literally prevent your brain from being able to solve the problem. You’ve probably had an experience like this at least once in your life: You have to solve a really tricky problem and you try to think about it harder and harder and just can’t find the solution. Then you go to bed and sleep over it and the answer magically appears in your brain the next morning. Or take the example of Albert Einstein. When he was supposed to do his work in a patent office he procrastinated by publishing physics papers.
The other point is that the majority of famous scientists that we all want to become did likely not become famous for their PhD. Virtually all PhD students who graduate are not 100% (probably not even 90%) happy with their thesis. But that is ok, because, as someone pointed out to me after the talk, it would be quite bad if you’re career only became worse after your PhD.
I walked out of the talk actually feeling quite a lot better about myself. My viewpoint about procrastination has changed, which means I’ll try and not feel so bad about it anymore. But I’m trying to make my procrastination more productive by doing my Coursera courses or finally learning to program for Android or planning my holiday or blog. If I think about it it really only is the kind of procrastination where you surf random websites that bothers me and makes me feel like I’m wasting my time.