The University Record, September 17, 1996

Workshop on procrastination may help students finish dissertations

The dissertation process is a very lonely one, clinical psychologist Mary McKinney says. McKinney has developed a workshop on procrastination to help doctoral students finish their thesis.

By Rebecca A. Doyle

If you are a procrastinator, according to clinical psychologist Mary McKinney, the dissertation process hits all your possible weak spots.

"Many students may have gone through their entire career and been smart enough to get away with doing everything at the last minute," she says. "But a dissertation or thesis can't be accomplished with a few all-nighters. It takes sustained work and the ability to break the work down into sub-projects."

McKinney is group leader for the 10-week workshop and support group "Overcoming Procrastination," which is designed specifically for graduate students who think they may have difficulty overcoming writer's block, organizing, managing time or avoiding the "perfectionism trap."

Often doctoral candidates are surprised by the loneliness of the dissertation process, McKinney notes.

"Dissertations pose special psychological problems for students. It is their first fully independent project," she says. "The process can bring out issues of separation, career advancement, autonomy, even recall early childhood losses."

"The support group will try to address some of those deeper underlying issues as well as focus on concrete skills and techniques helpful for accomplishing a project when there is no authority figure to please, no one to look over your shoulder all the time."

Those strategies include:


Setting deadlines for yourself---never leave a meeting with an adviser without setting another appointment.


Breaking down the whole project into small units that won't be as overwhelming.


Keeping track of the hours spent on the project. Sometimes, McKinney says, it seems like throwing time into a "black hole" unless there is a record of the time spent and how it is spent.


Charting progress and giving rewards for accomplishments, even small ones.

The workshop and support group sessions, sponsored by the Psychological Clinic, are $15 per session. Procrastinators are encouraged to attend the first two sessions, then will be asked to make a commitment to attend the rest of the sessions.

Sessions will be held 7:30-9 p.m. each Tuesday, beginning Sept. 24, on the second floor of East Hall.

McKinney urges those who may be interested to register early by calling 764-3471. Enrollment is limited to 14.