Telling Time Killers Who’s Boss

Time Killers are those little addictive things that waste our time without our permission. They can be different for everyone. They are things like T.V., Facebook, email, snacking, texting, you name it. They seem harmless enough, but they cause us to lose our focus and make work take longer than it needs to.

My Time Killer this week has been Facebook. To save paper, I’ve started doing my reading for grad school on my computer so I don’t have to print anything out. The problem with this is that my computer is full of distractions! I’ll be 10 pages into my reading and then BAM! Suddenly I’m scrolling through Facebook instead of reading. How did that happen? It’s like my fingers just took me there without even thinking about it. Well, now that I’m here, I better at least see what my friends are up to…and so it continues. Pretty soon, a reading assignment that should only take me half an hour has taken twice that. What a waste of time!

The trick is to remove your Time Killers before they are able to steal your focus. If your Time Killer is snacking, don’t do your work near the kitchen. If your Time Killer is texting, leave your cell phone in the other room. For me, I’ve started turning off my internet connection on my laptop when I’m doing my reading. This way, I can focus on my work and get it done in a shorter amount of time. Then I can allow myself to go on Facebook to my heart’s content!

Making Your Own Deadlines

This week, a few people from my husband’s office invited us to go to a trampoline gym on Wednesday evening. When asked if I wanted to go, my first thought was, “No, I have too many things due on Friday to take an evening off,” but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun a room full of giant trampolines sounded. Going out and doing something fun on a weekday is such a rarity, that I decided to pretend that everything due on Friday was actually due on Wednesday at 6pm. If I managed to get everything done by my new deadline, then I could go out and have fun. If not, I would be a little bummed that I couldn’t go out, but at least I would still have 2 more days to finish it before the real deadline.

Have you ever noticed that it’s sometimes easier to get things done when you’re up against a deadline? That’s because you don’t have time to be distracted. You don’t have to have as much self-discipline to focus on something if you wait until the day before a deadline. After all, you have no choice! When you wait until the last minute to get something done, you’re forced to focus on it and get it done in the least amount of time possible. Of course the problem with this is that when you wait until the last minute, you have to cross your fingers that everything will go exactly according to your plan and we know how often that happens! Broken printers happen, flat tires happen, lost internet connections happen, last minute social invitations happen. All of these things can prevent you from meeting your deadline. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could work as efficiently as you do when you’re up against a deadline without having to wait until the last minute?

That’s when you create your own deadline! Creating your own deadline a few days before the real one gives you the same kind of focused energy without having to worry about something coming up at the last minute. If something unforeseeable happens and you’re unable to finish your work, you still have a couple days as a buffer to get it done. If you’re afraid you will have trouble sticking to a self-created deadline, make a plan to do something fun after you’re done with your work to motivate you. In case you’re wondering, I did manage to get all my work done before Wednesday and went out with my friends, and if you’ve never been to a trampoline gym, you should go. As a kid you probably didn’t realize what a great cardio workout it was.

In Defense of Procrastination

We’ve always been told that procrastination is something that should be avoided. Our teachers and parents always said things like “never put off till tomorrow what can be done today.” This is wise advice, however, sometimes a little bit of well-managed procrastination can do wonders for our stress levels.

I saw last week’s holiday weekend as a great chance to get ahead on my work. “Just think! A whole extra day to get caught up on all my class reading and homework!” On Saturday and Sunday I did so well, knocking tasks out one by one. The house was finally clean! My assigned reading was almost finished! When Monday evening rolled around, I still had a few things left on my “choose-to” list when I realized TBS was having a marathon of The Office. I love this show. Looking over my list, I realized that there was nothing on there that couldn’t wait until tomorrow. I had worked so hard all weekend so I put my computer away, curled up on the couch and watched about three hours of The Office and it was worth every minute.

The Time Diet is based on the philosophy that we choose how to spend every minute of every day. If you usually control your time well, it’s ok to give in to procrastination every once in a while, just like it’s ok for a healthy eater to splurge on a giant piece of chocolate cake sometimes. It’s all about having control. Procrastination is a bad thing when it becomes a way of life. Habitual procrastinators aren’t in control of their own time and rely on being up against a deadline to get their work done. Do not make putting off work a habit, but a little bit of well-controlled procrastination can be good for you once in a while. I think Michael Scott would agree with me.

Put Your Head Down and Start Grazing

There were several moments this week when I just wanted to stop and scream, “How am I possibly going to get this all done?!?!” The reality of all of the deadlines for grad school is finally setting in and my students at work need the same amount of attention whether I have other things going on in life or not. It is tempting to just wallow in the pressures of all of these deadlines but that is such a waste of time and energy. Whenever I catch myself starting to stress out about all the work I need to do, I consult the tasks on my choose-to list and start tackling them.

Consider the following story:

“Two cows were faced with an immense pasture of grass to graze. The first cow stood in awe and said, “How in the world will I ever finish all this grass? There is surely far too much here for me.” The second cow said nothing, put her head down, and started grazing.”

Every moment we waste worrying about getting something done is one less moment we have to actually start getting things done. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to start grazing on some lesson plans.