A short one for once, promise:
A dear friend writing her final paper was somewhat stuck on said paper, and it had her down. Her strategy at the time was what we often do (myself included, usually related to weight loss): try again, be better next time.
She was discouraged and it was probably a bit of a negative spiral. She was making no progress.
My advice to her was to procrastinate. I know, you thought you’d never hear it from me.
But this wasn’t just any procrastination. I jokingly called it “Pro-ductive-crastination” and it fit.
My suggestion to her was to let it go for now: she was frustrated and demoralized, and in that state of mind, rarely do any of us do our best work. I certainly don’t.
I had her bring up all the other things she had to do. The list was piling up as she devoted all her time to this paper. Like you might expect, I suggested she force-rank them, pretend the paper wasn’t on it, and start burning through the list. Some of it was stuff that absolutely had to get done: her laundry was piling up and her fridge was emptying.
She could keep doing the paper into the next week, so she took my advice, did laundry, bought some food, cooked a big ol’ batch of food she liked, caught up on sleep, and got back to it.
When she was back to her paper, she was much happier: the thought of the laundry/food no longer haunted her mind, and she was able to take a much-needed break from staring at the paper with no guilt at all.
The risk of Pro-ductive-crastination is one can always find more stuff to do, if one looks hard enough. The trick to win here, is to put a limit on the action items one’s going to knock off from her list before getting back to work. Be disciplined with oneself, but use pro-ductive-crastination as a helpful backup to get oneself back on track if one needs an extended break from work.