Accountability


“Dear. Dr. Thesis Supervisor,

Hey, it’s me. Um, so I’ve started working on my introduction, and I’m sending you this e-mail because I hope to have a rough (ROUGH) draft done on Friday, and I was hoping to e-mail it to you to get your feedback. Hope your summer is off to a good start!

Yours Truly,

Anxious Grad Student”

That’s a slightly-exaggerated, names-removed-to-protect-the-anxious-and-the-impressively-scholarly, e-mail I sent to my professor a little while ago. Nothing in it is a lie. After all, I have started my thesis introduction. At the moment, it looks more like Frankenstein on the slab than the well-polished introduction it needs to become, but ultimately I guess it’s a start. The problem is, I’m having trouble moving past the first four pages. I’ve done a lot of research over the past few weeks. I’ve read lots of books, started lots of outlines…but now it’s time to get the show on the road. It’s time to start writing.

However, my procrastination has proved to be a worthy foe this time. My procrastination has outwitted me in every way. I make myself leave my house and go to the library to get work done. “No problem,” my procrastination says. “We’ll just angle our computer screen away from the other desperate students in the library and play some Bubble Shooter. Just one more game of Tetris,” my procrastination whines when I seem to be in danger of getting work done. “I have to check my e-mail one more time!” it protests, when I turn off my wireless connection.

My procrastination has not responded to threats, logic, tears, bribery, or anything else I can think of. Hours in the library have been spent doing…nothing. Time spent at my desk at home has been spent doing…nothing. Sometimes, my procrastination even just sits in front of the open word document, “ThesisIntroDraft1,” and doesn’t bat an eye. Doing nothing would be preferable to my procrastination than just getting the work done.

So today, I pulled out the big guns. I e-mailed my thesis supervisor promising him ten pages by Friday. In some ways, this has already proven to be a severe move. I’m getting the feelings of anxiety that I used to suffer to frequently last semester again. However, my procrastination also seems to have taken notice. “A draft?” it screeched, fingers flying frantically over the keyboard as it played yet another round of Tetris. “How do you expect to get a DRAFT done in two days?”

But that’s just it. This is what we needed. Accountability. With long-term projects, accountability can be hard to find. If you don’t have someone looming over your shoulder with deadlines and consequences, procrastination is easy. However, sometimes you have to find ways to make your own accountability. Move up your own deadlines. If simply moving it up on your calendar isn’t enough, TELL the people you’re accountable to that it will be done by the earlier date. Intrinsic accountability is great for those who are really self-motivated, but for the rest of us external pressure is the best thing since sliced bread. So watch out, procrastination, we’ve got a draft due. In two days.

So I guess we have time for one more round of Tetris.

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Filed under Academic Advice, Improved Learning, My Experiences

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