Deadlines are Your Friend

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Well, at least deadlines are MY friend.  Listen, I think anyone who knows me would agree that I am a very productive person.  I have accomplished a TON in my life so far.  Now before you click away in a huff thinking I’m an insufferable braggart, I tell you this to share one of my deepest secrets.  I’m a procrastinator.  A horrible, incurable procrastinator.  Perhaps you are one, too?  If so, this post is for you.

Lots of free time = lots of lazy

This past summer, I had the good fortune to be able to take a twelve-week sabbatical from my day job.  Sure, I was still working on SimpleMoney and finishing my book.  But I cringe when I think of all the wasted hours during the summer.  Sincerely.  I DID spend a good bit of time relaxing and resting, which was one of the main purposes of the sabbatical.  I’m not complaining about that.  It’s not even the enormous amount of television I watched with my daughter Rowan that bothers me; that was fun and started to define a new era between mother and daughter, since our homeschooling came to an end this month.

I am, however, concerned about the sheer number of hours unmercifully killed by puttering around online.

Time blocking helped me, but only a little bit.  Time blocking works great for me when I have a very full schedule in a week.  If I am diligent to block out time for my most important tasks, I get them done.  The trouble began when I had entire days open with no scheduled events to provide some framework.  Days like that would start, and I would feel awesome about the number of productive activities I could accomplish, while still relaxing and having fun.  But before I knew it, it was 3:00 in the afternoon, and none of my planned work was done.

Where the hell did the day go?  I’ll tell you where: straight into the black hole I affectionately refer to as puttering.  Puttering used to mean knocking around the house a bit aimlessly, doing various things along the way.  At least that puttering tended to accomplish something!  Now under my “puttering” headline, I include internet time.  Not the actual research type of internet time, which I also do, but more the following-rabbit-trails type of internet time.  Ugh.

Self-imposed deadlines don’t pack the same punch

In addition to trying to use time blocking to structure my days, I also attempted to give myself deadlines.  Nothing lights a fire under my rear like having a deadline.  Except that I am WAAAAAY too nice to myself when I don’t meet my self-imposed deadlines.  So far, the only cure for this is to find a way to create external deadlines.  Being accountable to someone else is definitely a game-changer.  But even that isn’t foolproof when I know deep inside that it is only MY deadline, after all.

If something needs to be done by a certain date, I can and will get it done.  But if I made up the deadline myself, I can and will procrastinate right past that dumb old deadline.

Sometimes you have to give yourself grace

There are times, I have found, where my lack of ability to complete tasks isn’t really procrastination at all.  Take this past week, for example.  Rowan started school for the first time ever.  Our homeschooling wrapped up earlier in the month, and I was doing just fine about this impending transition in our lives.  Then the week arrived for school to actually start, and I kind of fell apart.  I couldn’t focus on writing or other work much at all.

Of course, I realized this was perfectly normal and just rolled with it.  I offered myself the grace of spending more time in my head and with my emotions, even at the expense of productivity.  This too shall pass, I reminded myself.

Self-awareness is key

The takeaway here is to know thyself.  I say that often and in various circumstances, but it is always true.  If you know you are a major procrastinator, accept that and develop ways to work with your procrastination rather than beat yourself up about it.  For me, that means creating as many deadlines as I can to establish a framework for the projects I need to complete.  Clearly, I still need work with my self-imposed deadline setting, but it is a worthy thing to pursue.

After all, being a procrastinator is not a terrible thing.  Real deadlines help us to focus our attention and efforts to get things done (GTD, as David Allen refers to it – I prefer GSD, myself!).  I am proof positive that procrastinators can and do succeed in life.  Those days I mentioned where I hit 3:00 p.m. with nothing to show for it?  I would then buckle down and spend the next two hours blasting through some tasks, so I would feel like I wasn’t a complete lazy-pants.

It can be done!


What do you do to overcome your procrastination?  Or do you just embrace it?  Share below!  Or if you want to start a discussion with some like-minded friends, join the free SimpleMoney Community on Facebook to share your thoughts!

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2 responses to “Deadlines are Your Friend

  1. I divide what I have to do into tiny, minute tasks- like even opening word or my last PowerPoint, going to get coffee, blasting out bunch if stuff from my head onto a page fir 10mins, going to the bathroom, reframing what I’d blasted out earlier, putting in a pretty picture, etc….

    1. Hi Mel, Tell me more – does this help you to stay on task? Is it foolproof? 🙂 Does it take a long time to get your list made each day? I love lists, by the way. 🙂 Thanks for chiming in!

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