How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Started on Your Applications

Jul 04, 2019

By Keara Cormier-Hill

The hardest part of starting fellowship applications can be just that — actually starting. With so many components and the pressure to produce high quality content that will knock the selection committee off their feet, procrastination is a common, yet counterproductive first step. At some point, in order to submit the amazing application you are absolutely capable of creating, procrastination must end, and forward motion must begin. Here are 5 steps you can take, starting now, to move from delay to action on your fellowship application. 

#1 Don’t write, just bullet

Short answer responses, essays and personal statements are an important part of the application because they give the selection committee the opportunity to understand your story, your qualities, and your “why”. Due to their importance, these essays can be the biggest trigger for procrastination. It is important to remember, well-crafted essays that effectively capture a candidate’s passion and qualifications are not stream of consciousness journal entries; they are intentional and planned statements. Therefore, there is no need to feel the pressure to have perfection manifest the moment that you put pen to paper. 

Instead, start to craft your response by brainstorming what you will write. Writing these thoughts in bullet format will keep you focused on the content and the ideas that you want to express, rather than the sentence structure, format and flow, which you can be concerned about later.

If even the brainstorming is a challenge, don’t worry! Get started with these exercises to conquer writer’s block to get your bullet points going.

 #2 Talk to current Fellows and alumni 

If you are hesitating to start your application, you are likely hyper-focused on the selection process and losing sight of what should be the main focus — the fellowship experience itself. Talking with someone who has gone through, or is going through, the fellowship program can bring your focus back to the opportunity, and remind you why you were excited to apply in the first place.

Talking with current fellows or alumni also gives you a chance to get personalized advice and information about whatever part of the application process is most intimidating to you, and understand exactly how they leapt to the other side of that roadblock. By asking the right questions, you can not only get insider knowledge to help you present yourself as a strong candidate to your desired program, but you can also understand if the root cause of your procrastination is that you no longer want to be candidate. Either way, their transparent insight can be the guidance you need to have clarity and confidence in your next step.

If you don’t personally know any alumni from your program of interest, ProFellow has great resources that you can utilize:

    • Alumni Interviews: We have numerous interviews from fellows from programs that span the globe, as well as fields of discipline, and years of professional experience. 
    • ProFellow Academy: ProFellow Academy is a private community led by former fellows, industry experts and established leaders who generously share their experiences with aspiring fellows through live Q&A, in-person networking events, and personal introductions.

#3 Block times and turn off distractions

Though you may have the best of intentions in planning to get started, we all have had even our best plans thrown off by an unexpected email, call, or request from a friend. And those are just a few of the various valid, but distracting things that can come up. 

In order to have time in your day to complete your application, you will have to safeguard those hours. Create a plan for what you will need to do to complete your application by the deadline and block off the time to execute. For some, simply having a calendar reminder and hold will be enough to get you focused. For others, you may need to turn off the internet, remove yourself from possible distractions, and sit down to write with a pen and pad. It is important that you address whatever are your most prevalent distractions and which can you afford to temporarily remove. 

#4 Make very small, daily goals

If you have the passion and the big picture plan intact, but just aren’t sure how to take on the mountain of the task, try breaking your big goal into small goals you can track and achieve daily. 

For example:

By achieving these daily goals and aligning them with your overall strategy, you ensure that every day, you are moving towards successful completion.

#5 Get an accountability partner

If you are typically someone who can create a stellar plan and have a burst of progress, only to lose steam shortly after, an accountability partner could be your secret to steadfastness. 

Invite someone who you know is encouraging, but also realistic to check in on you and your progress. It could involve a routine of you sending bi-weekly or monthly updates, sharing a Google sheet tracking your progress, or blocking off time where you work together, if you have someone who is willing and available. However, a trusted friend or mentor who sends an occasional email asking about your next internal deadline can also be the motivation you need to keep moving. 

We all have been bitten by the procrastination bug at some point in life, however you shouldn’t let that stop you from submitting your best application to the fellowship of your dreams. Use these tips to get started today, and you will already be closer to the fellowship than you were before!

Keara Cormier-Hill is an alumna of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education (HGSE), there having completed her Master’s of Education and Certificate of Advanced Studies, along with the Child Protection Certificate from the Harvard François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights. Prior to HGSE, Keara collaborated with youth-centered international organizations in the Dominican Republic for two years as a Princeton in Latin America Fellow.

© Victoria Johnson 2019, all rights reserved.