Waiting Until the Time is Right (or Not!)
A common source of procrastination is the idea that we have to wait until we have a big block of time before starting on a task - any task. One of my great frustrations in life is not being able to get done everything I need to get done even when I am trying. I think this is because I don't make good use of the many small pockets of time that are available throughout a day.
People who don't procrastinate and are efficient about getting stuff done tend to use these small pockets of time. Making use of this time is one of the purposes of the Getting Things Done (GTD) strategy (author David Allen) of organizing a to-do list by where you are rather than by project. When you're home and you have 15 minutes, you look at your "at home" list. When you're waiting in a doctor's office, you look at your "anywhere" list, and do something on that.
The importance of using small pockets of time as a differentiator between procrastinators and people who get things done was established in controlled studies by Robert Boice. He worked with tenure-track professors on writing articles for publication. (It's publish or perish in academia.) The professors who used small pockets of time - 15 minutes between classes, etc. - were the ones who published. The professors who were always waiting for a free afternoon never got any articles written because they never had a free afternoon!
Modern life is full of demands and interruptions. If you are waiting for a large block of time before you start something, you likely will never start it because the large block of time will never come. Learning to use make good use of small blocks of time is a key to getting things done.
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The bigger the task, the bigger chunk of time you need... and
the worse the procrastination.
Yes!! Doing something, even a little thing, ANYTHING on that project is very important. If not NOW, WHEN? I also tell myself "when I have a chunk of time, I'll work on it." but even when I get the chunk of time, then I'll say "I have lots of time, I need to get in the mood first, so I'll just (insert favorite excuse here), then I'll be ready. And I end up wasting big chunks of time, just like I waste small blocks of time.This is especially true of my masters thesis -- and if I don't finish that, it means I won't get my degree, and then why did I spend 3 or 4 years (not the regular 2!!) in school?? That sounds like gross misuse of time, if not procrastination per se.
Randy Pauch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon who was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live persuasively told how "every moment is precious" and therefore we should do something with every moment we have. Even though I probably have more than three months to live, intellectually I know my time on Earth is limited, but I still waste A LOT of time. So far I can't stop it even if I want to -- and that sounds a lot like addiction. I need help to use ALL of my time -- the 15 minute chunks (even the 3 minute chunks) and the 6 hour chunks too. Life is passing me by, and I'm wasting it with directionless activities (i.e.procrastination).
I know that I *should* do it, and it's not that I don't *want* to do it, but I can't get myself to *just do it!* Sometimes it's because I don't know *how* to do it, and sometimes I'm afraid of failing, but sometimes, I think I also just lack willpower. I mean, how can you fail at doing your laundry?? But it piles up!
Spot on! and very well said.
Spot on! and very well said.
Adapting to a busier schedule
This is a great point, and one that's been affecting me a lot recently. In high school I didn't do a lot of extracurriculars after school, and so most of my evenings were free; thus I could wait until the afternoon before a paper or project was due, and just plug along at it until it was done—and when it was important enough that I was willing to lose sleep over it, I had a good 15-hour chunk of time between getting home one day and getting up the next in which to do everything.
But now I'm at college, and things are completely different—there's always stuff going on in the afternoon and evening that I want to go to, along with wonderful hallmates to hang out with, and so I don't have those solid hunks of time any more. The result is that I never seem to get much done, because I haven't learned how to use my time efficiently. So this is something I want to work on!
Important for me too
I was sceptical when I first put this into practice but now I'm a convert - but I ~still~ find myself trying to do things in big chunks of time even though intellectually I've learned I can do otherwise. I seem to have learned it only in certain situations - things like homework, accounts, etc. I've yet to apply it to smaller projects and personal projects.
Having said that, whilst I was on a workshop this weekend I took the opportunity to get some sewing done at lunchtime - I wanted to put a patch on my bag but other things are always more 'important'. So I just pinned the patch on the bag, took my cotton and needle, and did it in the lunch break. I didn't have to set aside 'sewing time'. I was very pleased with myself for getting something so small (but something I wanted) done so quickly. So maybe there is hope for me.
OK I ~really~ gotta go now, or I'll be late.
this is an important tip for me
I'm very guilty of this - waiting for big blocks of time that never come before starting something. I particularly do it with my accounting. I want to be able to catch up on the entire thing all at once so I wait until I have a free day to start, but I never have a free day so I never start. If, instead, I did 15 minutes here and there, it would get done! I'm going to commit to trying this.
There's a hexagram in the I Ching called "Development" or "Gradual Progress". It talks about the huge difference between slow progress and no progress. If you take a step each day, you will eventually walk 10 miles. If you never take a step, you'll never move from where you are!!