The Procrastinator’s Creed
I believe that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.
I shall never move quickly, except to avoid more work or find excuses.
I will never rush into a job without a lifetime of consideration.
I shall meet all of my deadlines directly in proportion to the amount of bodily injury I could expect from missing them.
I firmly believe that tomorrow holds the possibility for new technologies, astounding discoveries, and a reprieve from my obligations.
I truly believe that all deadlines are unreasonable regardless of the amount of time given.
I shall never forget that the probability of a miracle, though infinitesimally small, is not exactly zero.
If at first I don’t succeed, there is always next year.
I shall always decide not to decide, unless of course I decide to change my mind.
I shall always begin, start, initiate, take the first step, and/or write the first word, when I get around to it.
I obey the law of inverse excuses which demands that the greater the task to be done, the more insignificant the work that must be done prior to beginning the greater task.
I know that the work cycle is not plan/start/finish, but is wait/plan/plan.
I will never put off tomorrow, what I can forget about forever.
- I will become a member of the ancient Order of Two-Headed Turtles (The Procrastinator’s Society) if they ever get it organised.
Does this sound like you? Time management skills take a long time to acquire and even longer to master. Most people, when honest, can admit to spending at least part of their day wasting time on tasks which are neither urgent nor important.
Urgency vs. Importance
The key is to separate those things on your ‘to do’ list into 4 separate categories and deal with them accordingly:
- Urgent AND Important – Do it now
- Important but NOT urgent – Plan when to do it and do it soon
- Urgent but NOT important – Delegate it
- Neither important NOR urgent – Dump it
This looks simple in theory but it is not always easy to make the right decision as to which category each task should fit into. A way of getting round this might be to ask yourself what the consequences would be if you didn’t do it today. Would postponing it until later give you enough time to complete the task so that it is of sufficient quality? If the answer is yes, then the task is probably important but not yet urgent. Those things that absolutely MUST be done today should again be prioritised and completed in the right order. Add these tasks to a closed ‘to do’ list of things which should only be completed today. It is possible to have several ‘to do’ lists at any one time, with varying degrees of importance and urgency. This ought to help you determine which tasks need to be completed and in what order.
The following model can be a useful to those wishing to make the most of their time by prioritising activities:
Getting Going and Keeping Going…
Concentrating on the most important tasks first means that you will be working more efficiently. Nevertheless, the most important tasks are often the most common reason behind procrastination – it’s not always possible to determine exactly how to complete these tasks. Therefore most tasks get started and then soon come to a grinding halt. How can you overcome this? The key is to get going and keep going. Remember that the average concentration span is 15-20 minutes. You will therefore need regular breaks from your work throughout the day. Nevertheless, these breaks should be no longer than 5-10 minutes in length, otherwise you will risk losing your train of thought and/or motivation to continue. Be disciplined to stick to a task, even though you are finding it difficult. Ask yourself why you are resisting the task and try and think of different ways of tackling it – perhaps by using problem solving techniques.
If you have a structure but are still stuck, try listing all the tasks you need to do to accomplish your overall task. Pick just one and do that (write a paragraph, read a chapter, make a project schedule etc). It’s always easier to keep going once you’ve got started.
When your research has few fixed deadlines it is very easy to become distracted by the wonders of modern-day technology. In order to manage this you need to begin by identifying the things which commonly distract you from your research. Below is a list of things which are frequently cited by doctoral researchers as being major distractions to their research, as well as some hints/tips on how to manage these distractions (adapted from www.learnhigher.ac.uk)
|Distraction||Tips for managing the distraction|
|Instant messaging / emails||
|Phone calls and texts||
|Food and drink||
Your Energy Cycle
To make full use of your time, you should be aware of your individual energy cycle. Your performance will have peaks and troughs during the day. Some people are at their prime in the morning and others in the afternoon or early evening. It is up to you to find out when your peak concentration times are.
- When do I work most efficiently?
- When do I usually hold meetings?
- When to I arrive at the office/library? What time do I prefer to be in the office/library?
- When am I at my most productive?
- When do I like to be with other people?
- When do I work alone?
This help list will help to make the most productive use of your time. To do this:
- Identify your energy cycle
- Use your peak time for concentrating on your ‘A’ tasks
- Use your ‘trough’ time for doing simple routine tasks
- Remember that maximum performance tends to be in the morning
- Be aware that after lunch there is a relatively relaxing (siesta) time
- Remember that there is usually a secondary peak in the afternoon
More soon, but in the meantime here’s an excellent video on procrastination, just for fun: