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The Power of Procrastination April 21, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in grad school.
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Last night, my husband and I attended a talk at NDSU by the infamous Jorge Cham, creator of PhD Comics.

I’m not sure when I began reading the comic (either late undergrad or early in my MS), but we often joke that my husband was Mike Slackenerny incarnate.  They even graduated about the same time!  (The big difference is that Mike, my husband, was also working a full-time job while he was doing his PhD…so his problem wasn’t lack of motivation, it was lack of time.)

Cham’s talk was on procrastination.  It was rather funny, featuring a lot of physics jokes and comics (of course).  In the first part of the talk, he focused a lot on how grad students tend to feel depressed, overwhelmed, and unmotivated and how a lot of this is due to guilt.  Once he established that fact, he then went on to say, more or less, that it’s okay: at some point, we will find some motivation (usually external) to get through things.  Once that magic I-need-to-get-finished-button has been pushed, most people take what they have or get going on the stuff they need so that they can get their degree and get out.  Those motivators can be things like a job or a spouse who can’t deal with slacking off.  Of course, the way he said it was much funnier, which is why you should go see one of his talks when you have the chance.  (As a side note, liberal arts majors may not find it as funny as I did.)

It’s interesting that, while true, I don’t think I recall anyone putting it that way before.  Grad school, for many people, seems to drag on forever because of the fact that there isn’t a really clear objective (for most people) showing what they need to graduate or because it can simply take so long to accomplish the objective when there is one.  (For the record, I don’t think ‘doing a significant and original piece of research’ is a terribly clear objective for most people.)

Afterwards, we had the opportunity to get autographed copies of the books.  Watch out, though, in case they run out!  And if you’re really a nerd, like me, you can take a picture (like the one above).

If you’re interested, the schedule for upcoming talks can be found here.  Definitely take the opportunity to check out his talk.

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