Overcoming Procrastination and Writer's Block

Overcoming Procrastination and Writer's Block

In studies conducted over several years, Dr. Boice, Professor of Psychology at SUNY, Stony Brook, found that the characteristic that marked new faculty at SUNY who moved through the tenure process without difficulty was their ability to work at a moderate but consistent pace. He found that all faculty who had difficulty making tenure had difficulties with "procrastination."

Dr. Boice found that procrastinators work constantly, but put their time and effort into low priority tasks while high priority tasks wait. And when procrastinators do work on high priority tasks, they work in binges. (Dr. Boice considers a work session lasting over ninety minutes to be a binge.) Moderate workers worked in thirty to ninety minute sessions, frequently getting their work done between other activities. As a result of this work style, moderate workers accomplish more work over time because they do not face burnout. Also, they spend far more time socializing, recreating and resting. New faculty who work at a moderate pace experience fewer difficulties with writer's block.

Do you have the characteristics of a person who procrastinates?

  • I feel busy and rushed in life.
  • I am concerned with my final output rather than the process of completing work.
  • Even though I worry about my final output, I can't seem to get to work on the most essential activities needed to complete an assignment.
  • I am concerned with, sometimes even anxious about, what others think of my work and me.
  • I believe I have to write when I'm inspired and study when I'm in the mood.
  • I don't plan concretely for when and how I will complete an assignment.
  • I don't deal with time well: I have a whole week to complete a task, but the week gets away from me.
  • I feel annoyed by the pressure to be orderly and on time.
  • I work in binges, putting in two hours or more per work session, but then I have difficulty doing much the next day.
  • I don't seek information or feedback from peers and superiors very frequently.
  • I spend less time on socializing, recreation, and rest than I would like.

Basic Principles for Working Effectively

Slow down! It's ironic, but it works. Think about what you are about to do and plan for the most efficient way to accomplish the task.

Work in brief, daily sessions lasting one-half hour to ninety minutes.

Begin before you feel ready.

Stop! After a reasonable amount of time, put the work aside whether or not it is finished.

When writing, balance preliminaries such as collecting material, organizing and conceptual outlining with actual writing.

Talk back to self-defeating thinking and habits.

Manage your emotions: work in a relaxed mood at a moderate pace.

Moderate attachment and reactions to your work (procrastinators tend to become attached to their ideas quickly. Think of your work as a work in progress. Give yourself time to let ideas germinate rather than drawing conclusions too early).

Let others, even critics, do some of the work.

Limit wasted effort (for example, if you sit down to work and find yourself distracted, stop and take care of whatever is bothering you).

Information on this page is from:

Procrastination and blocking: A novel, practical approach. 1996. Boice, Robert Westport: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. ISBN: 0275956571.

Dr. Robert Boice's Procrastination and Blocking is available at the Regenstein Library, Call #BF 637.P76B65.