In my experience procrastination is one of the most common ways graduate students screw up. It is a bad idea to be casual about your writing schedule. It is a bad idea to wait until you are ‘feeling it’ or until you are ‘in the mood’ to work. This will only result in requests for deadline extensions, long overnight study/writing sessions the day before an essay is due, and a general feeling of stress and restless nights as you fall behind. Being casual about writing is, in my opinion, one of the biggest ways to screw up in graduate school.
What’s my advice? Write everyday. Even if you have nothing to write, or no clear ideas about what you want to say. Just write everyday. You’ll be surprised at how much you can write, even in a few hours, if you dedicate yourself to a strict (but not too strict) schedule of writing daily. Make writing a routine. Though you might end up throwing out a lot of the writing you do, you’ll also find yourself learning a lot by regularly putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. You’ll find that writing becomes a time to think through ideas, and come up with ideas. And you will find yourself avoiding deadline extensions and overnight writing sessions.
Obviously, writing is not always necessary or even a basic part of certain graduate degrees. I am speaking as someone who has earned his degrees in the social sciences. But the need to construct a routine work schedule – no matter what that work is – is, I think, a key lesson for all graduate students to learn.
University of Alberta