A distinction in procrastination

Hello all – and please accept my apologies for being away from here for a little while. “No problem”, I can hear you all saying, “we understand that you’ve been working hard on your dissertation, reading research papers, collecting data and transcribing interviews, analysing it all and making astounding discoveries.”


Well, the truth is rather more prosaic I’m afraid.

Yes, I have been getting on with my dissertation and doing all of those good things, but possibly not with quite the vigour I really should be. That’s for this month I’ve been promising myself. Instead, I’ve been finding lots of ways to procrastinate, while telling myself that a bit of physical exertion is good for the analysis process, especially as I’m undertaking a qualitative (and largely inductive) approach to it.

My car has never been cleaner.

Clean carThe garage has never been tidier.

Empty garageI demolished a rotten shed that had stood by the side of my house for more than twenty years …

Shed site… and built a new one twice its size. I’ve named it Sheddy McShedface …

Sheddy McShedface… and filled it with all of the things that were in the garage that should have been in the old shed but wouldn’t fit.

Shed interiorI’ve even cut the grass (the elephant is called ‘Steve’ by the way).

Steve the elephantI think these are pretty impressive lengths to go to as far as procrastination is concerned. I’ve awarded myself a distinction, but you may be able to do better perhaps? Do let me know – it will help keep me away from Seale’s book on qualitative research for another evening if you do.


A version of this article was previously published at the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 8th May 2016.

Stress and procrastination

Someone in the occupational psychology course team clearly has a sense of humour. Having finally squeaked my way around the ethical approval process a couple of weeks ago and having recovered from the scars inflicted by the online submission process (cake is still on offer by the way) I’ve been working on my final module assignment. It’s on … stress.

The topic is fascinating as even though most people can tell you what it feels like for them to be experiencing stress at work (or anywhere else for that matter), there’s little agreement on definitions, theories and models. There are huge problems in making valid stress assessments – yet without them, the interventions that counsellors try probably won’t work – and if they do, their success won’t necessarily be because of the method they used. As some Norwegian researchers (*) observed at the turn of the century, “the process [of making an occupational stress and health intervention] can be as important as the content of the occupational stress intervention itself.” Well, quite.

However, it’s the challenges to “commonsense” from psychological research, such as those seen in the literature on workplace stress, that continue to excite me as a student. It’s just a shame that the amount of time that it’s taking me to come to terms with the issue and write the module assignment feels like a distraction from what I’d rather be doing, which is making progress with my own research for my dissertation. I’ve always been a procrastinator, but my tendencies to procrastinate spiral out of all control when I’m faced with such an intellectually stimulating topic.

This leads me to a question that I’m genuinely interested in hearing your answers to. I know that I’ll eventually break out of my procrastination spiral as the deadline for the module assignment approaches, but at the moment, as I’m not quite close enough to 3rd March for this to happen, my levels of stress are increasing. I know that if I could start to make rapid progress I’d feel better about this assignment – as well as feel better about the nagging certainty that I really do need to start making some rapid progress with the dissertation itself. What should I do?



(*) I’d normally put the reference in here, but trying to use Norwegian characters in WordPress is far too stressful a process for this time on a Sunday evening.

A version of this article was previously published at the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 14th February 2016.

Coming up for air

The problem with writing a blog, particularly when it concerns your study plans and ambitions, is that it creates hostages to fortune. For example, in December I wrote the following words:

As an experienced distance learner, I’ve always found it absolutely essential to use this time of year to get ahead of the schedule, so that the inevitable issues that crop up in my working and home life don’t totally derail the study effort.

Well, that didn’t work out terribly well. I’m currently less than 48 hours away from my module assignment deadline with the smallest of the two parts completed (500 words) and suffering a complete crisis of confidence about what I’ve written for the first part of it (2,500 words). I also remember writing this in January:

I’m now working my way through the second module of the Occupational Psychology MSc – Personnel Selection and Assessment. I also appear to be on track as far as my own personal schedule is concerned …

How long ago that seems! I’ll be back here again when I’ve finally stopped procrastinating and either finished off the assignment … or possibly, when it’s finished *me* off.

This article was originally written for the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 8th February 2014. I survived the experience. But only just …

MITx 6.002x – five early opinions from the blogosphere

I’m barely a couple of weeks into 6.002x and yet I’m already finding new methods of procrastination. Sigh. Some ways are more fruitful than others, however, and I’ve managed to find a number of people who are also blogging their way through the course. Here’s a selection of some of the more interesting posts I’ve found so far.

In an incredibly enthusiastic first post, Anna Chiara announces that MITx is alive, managing 6 “cools”, 3 “greats” and 3 “amazings” in quick succession. Her motivation for taking the course? “… I’m a real fan of e-learning. It’s a really new field, at least at this level and scale, and there are so many initiatives, so many people are exploring the field and testing which methods will lead to the best results.”

Phillip Edwards sets himself four ground rules for taking the course, while also declaring his preference for a constructivist approach to education. “My model of how students learn might not be aligned with what the MITx course staff are bringing to bear in the course–which, absent compelling evidence to the contrary in this case, is probably fine for many, many purposes.”

Callam McMillan in his first post on the course  lists many different variants of Ohm’s law citing google as his friend and goes on to discuss the differences between DC and AC power. “… if you haven’t seen these two equations, then leave now … Voltage = Resistance * Current (V = RI) and Power = Voltage * Current (P = VI)

Tony Bates wonders if MITx will work – and not solely from the perspective of students. “Is this a business model that could be replicated in other universities? Or is it still heavily dependent on philanthropy?”

And for anyone wondering what the MITx 6.002x experience looks like, Brandon Muramatsu has plenty of screenshots to look at while giving his first impressions of the course and has some interesting observations surrounding accessibility. “While I think it’s shortsighted to not fully support upwards of 77% of web users … , why not go all the way? People using MITx can be expected to be crazy motivated to participate, downloading and installing Chrome is probably not going to deter them. (Those that are going to complain about IE support, are going to complain anyway).”

Time to get back to working my way through week 2 I suppose!

SD226 – TMA03: first question down, two to go

I’m using the gap between now and when I can do my DD307 group discussion (arranged for 6th June) to try to get as much done as possible on SD226 and TMA03, which is due in on the same day as the DD307 TMA04 project report. I pleased to say that I’ve managed to finish the first question off today (five short answers) and I’m intending to use a train journey down to Exeter tomorrow to have a go at question 2, which is a 1,000 word essay.

I’m also intending to use my journey back on Tuesday to finish off my “cheat sheet” of questions for the DD307 project, so I’m not totally neglecting that module.

I have, of course, managed to convince myself that I’ve invented a whole new form of procrastination this weekend, just to make sure that I can still find something to beat myself up about. You see, I’ve now decided that working on SD226 is simply procrastination for DD307 and working on DD307 is simply procrastination for SD226.

I can’t win.

But I am looking forward to my trip to Exeter, as it means I will get to see my eldest daughter starring in “Proof” at Exeter University. The performance is in a room in the Washington Singer building. This just so happens to be the home of the faculty of psychology and those naughty, naughty cognitive social psychologists featured on the DD307 DVD1. Sigh. The OU seems to be following me everywhere at the moment …

DD307 – slow progress on TMA01

Before anyone else says it, as DD307 doesn’t start officially for a few more weeks yet, I know I’m really making quite good progress overall!

I took today off work (having been back at my desk for all of one day this year) so that I could take my youngest daughter up to Preston for a university interview/audition. My TMA01 essay came with me too.

At the start of today I had 60 words written (out of 1,500).

<drum roll> I now have 110. </drum roll>

Today has not been the most productive essay writing day I’ve ever had, but it’s been great for finding yet more reasons to procrastinate…

DD303 TMA06 and more thoughts on revision

I’ve been finishing off TMA06 and attempting to get down to some revision this weekend, with a mixed amount of success as the rest of the household seems to be in chaos. I’ve also got the gloomy thought of having to drive down to Bracknell later on as yet again, I’m starting my working week there. As I’m leading a training course for the salespeople first thing in the morning, I’ve decided that the only way I can be awake enough to make it worth their while is to sacrifice my Sunday evening and drive down to the luxury Bracknell Travelodge tonight, rather than getting up at 5am to make sure I can get through the Monday morning traffic in time to get to the office for 8am ish.

At least my TMA06 effort now says that it’s at draft 6, so based on my usual form that’s probably good enough. I’ll leave it for a few days however before I submit it, just in case I get some further astounding insights on autobiographical memory and the ‘working self’ I feel I want to incorporate.

Revision is going less well. Having decided what it is I want to revise, I haven’t really made too much of a serious start, but I have been looking at the notes I’ve made as I’ve gone along through DD303. I’ve also downloaded a free copy of ARIS Express, with the intention that I’ll use the general diagramming tool for mind-maps and other revision-focussed things. ARIS Express is meant for modelling and thinking about business processes, but I’m finding it easier to use than most dedicated mind-mapping software as (a) I use it in my day job and (b) I don’t find I can live within the constraints of pure mind-maps when I’m revising!

I’ve also joined Facebook this week. I’ve decided to restrict my activities on it to family, friends of 20+ years standing that I don’t get to see enough of in real life and fellow OU students. If you fall outside of those categories, please don’t take it personally if I don’t accept your friend invitation! I just need to get used to this strangely compelling environment slowly. I already have enough ways of procrastinating already, you see.

Bracknell here I come …

DD303 – I procrastinate so you don’t have to!

Tonight’s procrastination (instead of doing more work on chapter 10): searching YouTube to find versions of the greatest song ever written using two chords – Whole Wide World, by Wreckless Eric.

An amazing live performance from “What’s On”:

The original single version, with a rather nice cartoon accompaniment (though I’m not quite sure the creator of it has quite got the meaning of the lyrics around 2:05 to 2:15)

A not very good professional cover by the Proclaimers:

… and one of many, many weird and wonderful amateur versions.