Varieties of Procrastination
Early in my career my father, also a professor, advised me that if I managed to finish my work—whether it was research, teaching, or service—on time and in the correct format, I would have a huge competitive advantage over many of my peers.
I’ve always found that principle to be correct and have passed it on to graduate students and tenure-track colleagues. I am shocked at how many academics I’ve met who had a terrific grant proposal but missed the deadline, or who could have published a great paper in a journal but put off writing the “revise and resubmit” version until too much time had passed.
Procrastination is not always bad: Sometimes the work you put off doing is better left undone. And sometimes the best ideas just come late. But perennially postponing everything until the last minute, especially for the doctoral student and the probationary faculty member, can be a career killer.
Luckily, no matter your particular habits of work or mind, procrastination is not preordained. I know many people who manage to get their work done on time, and at a high standard, yet privately admit they are procrastinators who learned to overcome the tendency, at least some of the time. I believe that, within reason, anyone can learn to be a completer, not a delayer.