Thursday, August 7, 2008


I don't get many comments on the blog, so every one is kind of exciting.
I got a comment this morning (thanks!) that started me thinking.

"Hi, Dave,
I'm new to your blog and just wanted to let you know that I find your words insightful and even uplifting. Not that I'm promising to go work on my dissertation or anything...heh."

Now compliments are nice, but it's that final sentence that really struck me, just because it made me think of a book I'm currently reading: The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. I am something of a consumer of mass market psychology and self-help, which is what Fiore's book feels like to me. Fiore basically says that procrastination can often be ascribed to a sense that you're not doing a task because you want to, but rather because you feel as if someone expects you to do it. I've only read a third of the book, but as far as I can tell, the basic premise is that we get over procrastination by choosing what we will do--by feeling like we are making a choice and doing what we think we should do for our own benefit--not because someone told us to, but because we decided to.

This basic premise is one that I believe in, and one I believe I have mentioned in previous posts. We get the work done when we're doing it because we think we will make our situation better for doing it.

The kind author of the comment, of course, has no connection with me or commitment to me--no promise, and even if she/he did promise, I have no way of enforcing that promise. But that final sentence can be read as revealing the whole dynamic of procrastination as Fiore describes it: there is work that isn't getting done, and there is an author who is resisting, and who is referencing an outside authority of sorts.

Only of sorts, of course, because I am pretty much an anti-authority figure. I want everybody to work from a core of personal beliefs--including a belief that working on the project is a good thing.
It's better if one also believes that working on the project is not painful or agonizing in anyway, but that can be a slightly harder belief to come by. But it comes easier if you start thinking about the choice that you're making and the good outcomes that come out of making that choice and engaging with the project.

I'm not big on saying things like "you should be working harder; promise me you'll work harder." I'm more likely to say "do something that promotes your health--physical or mental, or better both. Do something that you think is important. Do something that helps give you better future prospects so you can live a better life." I figure if an author can't figure out how the dissertation relates to at least one of those three questions, then probably that author ought not be bothering with the dissertation anyway.

I'd like to suggest that every author try to have fun with their work. Explore the possibilities; look for the things that interest you and the things that you care about. See if you can rediscover the enthusiasm that directed you to the topic in the first place.

If you're only doing it because someone else expects it of you, then you're setting up a dynamic that will lead to procrastination (at least in procrastination as described by Fiore).

Thanks again for the comment! I hope that you had a good day, doing whatever you did.

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