Helene Knævelsrud: How to tackle procrastination in the year of COVID-19

Maybe you have felt it too? There are thousands of things that needs to be done in just a small timeframe. Especially when you rather want to go for a long walk or clean your apartment instead of studying or maybe you suddenly find yourself deep into the newest Netflix series when you should have been exercising?  But how can you stop procrastinating and keep focus on your goal? Can science help you in this case? How can you be motivated, or maybe the motivation itself is the key to stop procrastinating?  CanCell senior scientist Helene Knævelsrud has written a piece in Morgenbladet* about procrastination and how to avoid doing it.

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Helene Knævelsrud is a project leader in Jorrit Enserink's group. Photo: Amalie Huth Hovland, UiO

How can cancer research help you beat the doorstep mile and get off the couch?

Procrastination needs not only to be that you rather watch a movie on Netflix instead of jogging. Sometimes jogging will be more tempting to do than to start your work. Even as a scientist it can be tempting to procrastinate parts of your work by doing other things in the meantime. This is explained to us by Helene Knævelsrud in the pieceHvordan komme seg opp av sofaen” (in Norwegian) together with two colleagues from Young Acadmy of Norway.

"You can look at the fruit flies and wonder what they do when they procrastinate and if they even do so. As we know fruit flies have very short lives compared to humans and they go through the transformation from infancy to adulthood in only a few days", Helene tells Morgenbladet.

To Morgenbladet Helene explains that even if you are a scientist there is aspects of your work that you can procrastinate into. For instance, you can get lost in the vast catalogues of fruit fly lines, genetic mutations or get a sudden whim to sort the fruit flies based on lines.

It is starting to make sense now why fruit flies always seems to be so active and annoying at the same time when they have such short lives. But the case is thankfully different for us humans, we are lucky enough to have procrastination as a luxury-problem. Some procrastination might even be good for us in stressing situations like the current with COVID-19, as long as it do not become all-consuming. Helene gives insight in how a scientist could avoid procrastination and the key seems to be through motivation:

What gives me the motivation is that I know that my research will benefit those who suffers from cancer, Helene explains in the article.

The statement is directly related to her work as she also works a lot with persons that have survived blood cancer as those who live with chronic leukemia and are dependent on continual treatments. Common for those two groups is that they have received cancer treatments and are often suffering from adverse side-effects of the cancer treatments. Helene’s research is part of the basic research that lays the foundation for all other aspects of cancer research. By seeking the understand the genetics of cancer and cancer development she paves the way for development of better cancer treatments in the future. With better treatments that have less adverse effects it will be possible that more people survives cancer and that less of those must struggle with the after-effects of both the cancer and the cancer treatments. Helene explains that being given the chance to improve someones lives motivates her to go straight to the lab and work further on after she have met those patients. It turns out that motivation and having a higher goal of helping others is the key to avoid procrastinating.

*Morgenbladet is a  Norwegian weekly, intellectual newspaper, covering politics, culture and science (Wikipedia).


Published Nov. 13, 2020 11:22 AM - Last modified Nov. 16, 2020 8:00 AM