Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Productive Procrastinator

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I’m a productive procrastinator. That’s what this post is. This is exactly what I’m talking about.

People ask me how I have time for everything, but they don’t know what I have on my plate and what my priorities are. So I look “productive” to them. They don’t know what else I *should* be doing. I’m great at initiating things; most of the time I manage to finish them. But it looks cool to the outside world when you initiate things.

So, for example, the other day I wrote this post for the OLC blog entitled Living the Unconference Life – a Form of Praxis? I had a million important deadlines looming over me and a hundred other things to do. But instead? While putting my daughter to sleep I remembered that I’d promise Sandra I’d write a blogpost for OLC and that I said something about unconferences… and then as I was putting my kid to sleep I thought that I live an unconference life all the time, and that I go to virtual conferences and have a blast with the Twitter back channel… and my daughter fell asleep… and I just wrote the post and sent it to Sandra to post on the OLC blog.

I had a million other things I could have thought of while putting my daughter to sleep but they needed more focus. I had a million other things I could have done with my 10 minutes, but they would have taken more energy. And they wouldn’t have given me the immediate rush of finishing a 1,000 word post.

PhD students (I still remember those days) are amazingly productive procrastinators. You’re supposed to be finishing or editing a chapter, but instead you’re looking up references. Or reading new articles. It’s productive, but it’s not your immediate priority. Sure, it’s better than watching TV or doing nothing, but it’s really procrastination under the guise of productivity.

Like now, I should be doing other stuff. I’m writing this post. Coz I wanted to respond to Laura on Twitter.

Enough. Back to the drawing board…

4 Comments

  1. I love it. Thank you. Recently have tried to limit my freeflow informal blog posting. Why? Because of some misguided belief that I need to step up my game and only put out polished, well thought-out, and well-grammared posts. I’ve been keeping the crazy, divergent grad student locked up in the attic. Time to let her back out so that she can show evidence of some of that grad student productive procrastination. I mean it’s happening, so I might as well share it if just so the post-docs can laugh at me and remember the good old days :). Thanks for being awesome, Maha.

    • Hey Laura just saw this now. I only started blogging after i finished my PhD (about a month after – apparently all that intensive writing my last year meant i couldn’t stop exercising my writing muscle and i was running out of places to publish stuff at the rate i was writing; it’s actually funny). But yeah i hope u do publish unfinished unfiltered stuff when u can – i wish i could, it would have made my PhD journey so much better, i think

  2. The trick is to have enough projects on the go that eventually the thing you have been putting off will become the displacement activity to avoid something else!

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