Slow and steady: motivational tips you can use throughout your PhD program.

Checklist on blackboard: now, next, later, tomorrow.  Now is checked.

If you’re a doctoral degree candidate who’s been meaning to get a jump on your scholarly essay, you may be suffering from dissertation procrastination. And understandably so, because taking on an endeavor as large as a doctoral dissertation can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that work for students pursuing a PhD or professional doctorate, regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in an online doctoral degree program or a traditional PhD program. Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown of AsapSCIENCE offer some great tips to make long-term, challenging projects more manageable:*

  1. Be aware that willpower is not enough to get you through a large task. In fact, a psychological concept known “ego depletion” suggests that we can completely exhaust our willpower at some point, so be prepared with additional strategies.
  2. Get started. The biggest barrier to productivity is simply beginning the work. Our brains visualize the hardest parts of the project, and in response, are wired to simulate real work by focusing on small, mundane tasks. Fortunately, according to a theory known as the Zeigarnick effect, our brains are also compelled to finish a task we’ve started.
  3. Split up larger tasks into smaller ones. The brain finds them easier to handle.
  4. Focus on time management and deliberately complete the hardest task first. You should also schedule periods of intense work followed by breaks.
  5. Set deadlines for yourself and you will be much more likely to complete the tasks at hand.
  6. Create an accountability chart that shows your progress and the time it took to complete the task. Evaluate the work in its actual state of completion, as opposed to making assumptions about what you’ve done.
  7. Don’t multitask. Contrary to popular belief, studies show that multitaskers are much less productive than those who focus on a single job. Make a list of what you wish to accomplish, and handle one task at a time.

Keep in mind that peer pressure works! Partner with another student in your doctoral program and encourage each other’s progress. If you experience other roadblocks as you’re working through the dissertation process, seek help quickly so that procrastination doesn’t have the opportunity to creep back in. Most online universities have excellent doctoral degree resources that you can access online, learning anything from how to format your dissertation’s statistical computations to best practices for revising and editing. In the end, the most important thing to do is to keep moving forward toward completing your doctorate … and ultimately, graduation.

Walden University, an accredited institution offering online doctoral and PhD degree programs, provides extensive support for students at all levels. Earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your life and schedule.

*AsapSCIENCE, G. Brown and M. Moffit (producers), “The Science of Productivity,” on the Internet at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHfjvYzr-3g&feature=youtube_gdata.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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