Procrastination and deadlines

The human tendency to procrastination is fascinating. We have free will, and of course we can choose to… delay. We delay for all sorts of reasons, including physical discomfort, misperceptions about ideal times, and sometimes just plain dishonesty with self.

When covering this difficult topic in time management courses, it’s important to measure your “procrastination quotient” by asking the following questions, and weighting the answers:
1. I invent reasons and look for excuses for not acting on a tough problem.
2. It takes pressure to get on with a difficult assignment.
3. I take half measures that will avoid or delay unpleasant or difficult action.
4. There are too many interruptions and crises that interfere with my accomplishing the big jobs.
5. I avoid forthright answers when pressed for an unpleasant decision.
6. I have been guilty of neglecting follow up aspects of important action plans.
7. I try to get other people to do unpleasant assignments for me.
8. I schedule big jobs late in the day or take them home to do in the evenings or weekends.
9. I’ve been too tired (nervous, upset) to do the difficult tasks that face me.
10. I like to get everything cleared off my desk before commencing a tough job.

There are three approaches to get rid of this annoying habit- especially when there’s a large job that can be broken into units. Allow me to state them, and use a personal example.
1. Plan immediately – design a course of action. Plan parametrically. So many units over so much time. BUILD IN REST PERIODS.
2. Hit now – Hit the job right now, according to your plan.
3. Parse and pace – once you’ve hit the first consignment, then rest. Leave it for a predetermined period. DON’T OVERDO IT!!!
4. Habit. Never deviate from this. It will become internalized.

And now the example. Back in the day, when I was in academia, there was one period of the year we dreaded. Final exams. Three hundred students’ exam papers to be marked – within a week. And sometimes not just for one exam; sometimes for a few. It was a through-the-night killer.
After you collected all the scripts from the exam hall, you immediately thought.. TOMORROW. Tomorrow I’ll hit this with all the energy I can. Mistake.
When I finally got this right, I went to my office, packed all the scripts into units of five papers. The stack of papers looked like a high rise building on my desk. I then hit the first batch of five papers, and the second.
THEN, I walked away, had some coffee and a chat.
After that, I hit the next two batches of five, or perhaps three. Then, another rest, perhaps a walk outside.
Come back, hit the next batch. Move just ever so slightly ahead of your planned schedule, and then walk away. You’re on track, and this behemoth will be beaten.

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