A Procrastinator’s Holiday

Happy Holidays from The Time Diet!

(sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)

“Dashing through the mall
More gifts are left to buy
My calendar’s so full
It’s bursting at the sides!

So much work to do
So much on my plate
Maybe this will be the year
I don’t procrastinate!


Calendars, To-Do Lists
Planning all the way
Next year I’ll be organized
And that’s the way I’ll stay (Hey!)
Time Killers, Distractions
They won’t bother me
2012 will be the year
Of productivity!”

Wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday and a Joyous New Year!

~Emily Schwartz

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Cutting Your Losses

The more hours of our day we sink into a failing task, the harder it is to admit that we may have made a mistake and move on. We continue to sink more wasted hours into the task in a fruitless attempt to make up for the time we’ve already wasted. The better plan is often to simply cut your losses, change your approach or scrap the task and make the most of the rest of your day.

Our brains don’t naturally work like this. When we have invested precious hours into something, we go into “loss prevention mode” in which we do anything we can to protect our investment. Unfortunately, in an effort to save wasted time, we just end up wasting more time!

It’s Human Nature

Here is an example of this concept using money rather than time from a study detailed in Psychology Today that says a lot about our time management:

In a hypothetical situation, participants were told that they had just invested 9 out of a total 10 million dollars developing a product when a competitor released a better and cheaper version. Knowing they could never compete with this new product, 80 percent of participants still said they would continue to invest the remaining 1 million dollars.

While logic would conclude it is better to lose 9 million dollars than 10 million, our natural instinct tells us to keep spending in vain in an attempt to recoup the lost money.

While this study had to do with money, I’m betting that if the study involved deciding whether or not to devote one more day, week, or month to a failed project, the results would be the same.

You’re Not Giving Up

There is a difference between giving up on yourself and cutting your losses when it comes to time management.

When a plan isn’t working, continuing to throw time at it won’t help. When you hit the pivotal moment in a task where you can either scrap it or keep going, ask yourself:

1) Will circumstances change in the future that will make my approach more likely to work?
2) Can I rework my plan without giving up on it entirely?
3) Is this plan the only way to achieve the results I want?  

If you answered “no” to these questions, then stop throwing more time at a failing task, cut your losses, move on, and try a different approach or a new direction altogether. You’re not “giving up” on yourself, but rather are making a calculated decision to make better use of your time.

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The Slow Day List

During crunch time,  don’t you find yourself saying, “Why in the world didn’t I do this sooner??” That is why using a “Slow Day List” is so important.

We all have days that are busier than others. A Slow Day List is where we keep track of things we can do on less-busy days to help prepare for our stressful ones. During our most hectic times of the year, we’ve all thought to ourselves, “Next time, I’m going to do _______sooner,” but then… we forget.

A Slow Day List is a place to keep track of those things, so next time you have a less-busy day, you can easily remember exactly what to do to get ahead.

Crunch Time

The time between mid-November and mid-December is my “crunch time.” As a music teacher, I have six concerts to get my students ready for. As a student, I have papers to write and reading to finish. As a college teacher, I have assignments to assess and grades to prepare. As a person, I want to squeeze in time to enjoy the holiday season.

During this crazy time of year, I have added many things to my Slow Day List that I can hopefully do next year to ease my stress. I wanted to share some of those with you in the hopes that you too will start your own list!

Emily’s Slow Day List

1) Automate my Grading
I have 44 students in the online class I teach, and I made individual rubrics for each one of because I thought it was easier than figuring out the University’s automatic system…nope! On my next slow day I will figure out how to use the system so my grades are automatically tabulated. It will save me tons of time next year.

2) Make my Concert Programs on the First Day
I know my students save the programs from their first band concert, so I don’t want to leave any one’s name off. However, the small task of making this piece of paper always sneaks up on me and I end up rushing through it. Next time, I’m going to make the program on the first day of the quarter when I first set up my class roster. There is no reason not to!

3) Outline Papers Earlier
It is always easier to write papers from an outline, rather than from a blank screen. I may not want to write my paper too far in advance, since we’re not done covering material, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start sketching out my ideas.

4) Get Decorations Ready Earlier
I don’t need to put up my Christmas tree on Columbus Day, but making time for being festive once Thanksgiving is over is difficult with my other obligations. Next year, I will have my decorations ready to go before the holiday season starts getting busy.

What will you add to your Slow Day List?

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