Episode 110: Deadlines are Your Friend

Dawn shares her darkest secret when it comes to her productivity and success.


Show transcript:

Welcome to the SimpleMoney Podcast, where we make personal finance less intimidating. I’m Dawn Starks, a financial planner and lover of the simple life. I’m here to talk about money and simplicity. Let’s dive in. This is episode 110: Deadlines are Your Friend. Well, I guess I should say that deadlines are at least my friend. They might not be your friend. But I think anybody who knows me would agree that I’m a very productive person. So I have accomplished a lot of things in my life. And so before you

tune out, thinking that I’m just bragging here, I tell you this because I want to tell you one of my deepest, most shameful secrets, which is I’m a horrible procrastinator. I’ve been very, very productive. But I’m also a very bad procrastinator. Horrible procrastinator. And I’m just not sure if, at this stage of my life – I’m 50 years old – I’m not sure it’s fixable at this point. So perhaps you are also a procrastinator. And if so, then this topic is for you.

So I decided, or I determined this past summer, that when I have a lot of free time on my hands, I am very lazy or can be very lazy. And just unfocused, I think is probably a better way of putting it. It’s not like I’m laying around eating chocolates and just, you know, reading magazines, but I’m just not focused on things when I have lots and lots of free time. So you’ve probably heard, if you’re a regular listener, you’ve probably heard me talk about over the summer

I had a sabbatical, so I was off of my day job for the summer and – which was great, that facilitated me having a lot of time to work on SimpleMoney and the blog and the podcast and the courses, and also work on finishing my book, which was finished, the writing was finished in July. But I cringe honestly, when I think about all the wasted hours during the summer. I did spend a good bit of time relaxing and resting, which was kind of the point of the sabbatical, other than finishing the book and whatnot,

and so I’m not complaining about that. But it’s – and I’m not even complaining about the enormous amount of television that I watched over the summer, because that’s not me typically, either. But that’s sort of part of the fact that Rowan started school in August, and so our summer was kind of our last hurrah as we were wrapping up our home schooling. And so we developed an appreciation for a particular series on TV that we started watching, and that became kind of our thing together, that Rowan and I would do. So it was a big change of pace for me,

though, because I’m not one that usually watches much television as a rule. And so, during the summer and even into the fall now, it’s way more than I have watched in years and years and years.

But that’s not even what bothered me. So, you know, the getting some rest and relaxation that doesn’t really bother me.

The fact that I watched a lot of television with my daughter, that didn’t really bother me.

What really bothered me was that I spent a huge number of hours just puttering around online. I just killed time,

puttering around online. It’s so easy to do. You get on there and you think you’re doing something productive.

“Oh, I have to research xyz.” So you get online and you start researching xyz,

and that leads you to abc. And then, and then before you know it, you’re over here to def.

And you just keep going and going, and it’s like this little black hole that you can continue and continue to follow new little trails on the internet.

So I just spent too much time. A lot of it was useful time, but it still was too much time doing it.

So you’ve probably, if you’ve read the blog or heard the podcast previously, you might have heard me talk about time blocking.

So that helped me some because I’m an eager time blocker, where I block out my day and I say,

“Okay, these two hours, I’m going to work on writing, these two hours, I’m going to work on whatever – household tasks or writing bills out.

And maybe, you know this block of time during the day I’m working at my office in my day job,” or whatever it is,

so I tend to block out the days and that helps me. And it helps me because it makes it very clear how little time you have during the day. You feel like,

“Oh, I have the whole day and I have these ten things that I need to get done.” Well,

the fact of the matter is, is that maybe two of those ten things are going to take a couple of hours each.

And so when you factor that in, then you realize, “Oh, you know, actually, I don’t have much time to do those other eight things that I had on my list.”

So even though during the summer months I was diligent to block out the time for the, you know, the most important tasks I had,

I did get those done. But when I would have entire days open with no scheduled events to provide a little bit of framework for me,

then those would kind of go downhill. They would start out, and I would feel awesome about,

you know, “I have all day. I can do all these things today, that I, you know, I can accomplish so much because I have the entire day free!”

Even, you know, factoring in that I have time for rest and relaxation, which is what I was supposed to be doing.

But before I knew it, it was like three in the afternoon, and I had done none of my planned work.

So that happened way too many times for my liking, and I would stop and I would think, “Where the hell did the day go?

You know, what have I been doing all day?” Oh, I’ll tell you, I was puttering around online.

Puttering around, you know, that terminology, it might be new to you, for me

it used to mean, and I think for most people, it means that you kind of knock around your house aimlessly.

You’re kind of doing a little bit here, a little bit there. You’re not super focused on any one thing.

You’re just kind of puttering around doing things. And so I do that also. But I also putter around online, where I, as I said before,

I start out with some sort of productive activity or goal in mind, and then it just leads down the trails, and you just go down these trails and start spending time.

And before you know it, an hour goes by, or two hours, or more. So that was problematic for me.

So in addition to using the time blocking to structure my days, I also attempted to give myself deadlines. So nothing –

normally – nothing lights a fire under my rear-end like having a deadline. Except that I’m way too nice to myself when I make the deadlines.

Because if I have external deadlines and I have to meet somebody else’s deadline, that I can do. When I create my own deadlines,

I’m like, “Well, you know, I don’t really have to do it by then.” And partly that’s because I’ve always been conservative when I create deadlines.

So if I know something has to be done for an external deadline by a week from Friday, then I’ll set myself a deadline to get it done by,

you know, a week from Wednesday so that I have a couple of days grace there. But really,

nine times out of ten, I’ll end up getting right up to the deadline, the actual hard deadline, because I’ll let my deadline kind of go by the wayside,

and I’m just too nice to myself. And so it’s really having accountability to somebody else that is useful to me. And I try,

I keep, I keep trying to find ways to hold myself accountable when it’s just difficult. It’s difficult when I know that when the task is completely on fire,

because now I’m butting up against my external deadline – I know I’ll get it done, because that’s what I do.

I’m very good, unfortunately, I’m very seasoned and experienced in procrastinating right up to the last minute,

and then I can put it together in record time. So that’s kind of a bad thing about myself.

I don’t like it. I’ve been trying really hard to work on that, and I can’t really find the best way to get myself reformed on that point.

So if you have suggestions for me, I am all ears! I’m happy to hear it, but what I wanted,

the reason I wanted to bring this up is that external deadlines are useful. So external deadlines, having an accountability partner

if you’re trying to work on some sort of project, or just knowing that you have those deadlines that can help you frame-up your week to get your workload done.

When you know you have to have this done by that date and this other thing done by this other date,

then you can frame your work around those deadlines and get yourself on a good schedule, on a good track.

But sometimes I think you just have to give yourself some grace and recognize that, you know, this is just kind of the way that I am.

And so I think that, where I don’t have a lack of ability to get tasks done, because I know I can.

That’s not really procrastination, but this past… But when I was writing this up, I had an experience where it was right after Rowan had started school for the first time, and we had wrapped up our home schooling,

as I said earlier, and I was doing just fine about this transition, you know, that was coming up in our lives about her going to school. And then when the week for school to start actually arrived,

I kind of fell apart. So I couldn’t focus, I was really, I was kind of depressed and I couldn’t focus on my other work and I thought,

you know, well this is normal. I’m not superhuman here. It’s normal for me to have these sad feelings about this era of our life ending.

And so I decided that instead of beating myself up for my lack of productivity and the fact that I was just getting further and further behind on my projects,

I just had to give myself some grace and say “This too shall pass,” and I will get through this and it will be fine.

So I think that the takeaway for me, and hopefully for you, is to know thyself. And that’s an expression that I use a lot,

I think, in various circumstances. But I think it’s always true. You just have to know who you are and how you operate,

so that you can then modify your expectations. Because you know how you’re going to behave in a particular situation.

So if you know that you’re a major procrastinator, accept that and develop ways to work with your procrastination instead of beating yourself up about it.

So as I said, I mean for years I’ve been trying to beat procrastination and I realized, you know,

I’m just not going to do it. So my sort of bandaid for it is that, as I said,

if I have an external deadline, I’ll back it up a few days and make that my deadline, my internal or self-imposed deadline, because I know that I have a couple days grace there. Because I know myself,

and I know that chances are decent that I’m not going to get it done by my self-imposed deadline,

and so I’ll have at least another 24 to 48 hours to pull it together by the real deadline. So I think that you just have to figure out how to operate in the context of what your personal characteristics are.

Not everybody’s a procrastinator I don’t think. I certainly am, though. But, you know,

I don’t think that being a procrastinator is a terrible thing, because if you have those real deadlines, you can focus your attention.

So most procrastinators that I know are this way, that when it’s down to the wire and your rear-end’s on fire because you’ve got to get this done,

you get it done and that’s you know, that is the thing that causes you to have that hyper-focus and really be able to get something done.

And so and I’m proof-positive that procrastinators can and do succeed in life. So I’ve gotten, as I said

when I opened the episode, I said, I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life despite the fact that I’m a horrible procrastinator.

So you know, those days that I talked about where I made it to 3 p.m and I had nothing to show for it?

Well, then I would buckle down and spend the next couple of hours blowing through some tasks because there was just no way I was going to be able to live with myself by going the rest of the day without doing something productive.

I just did not want to feel like I was totally lazy. So when I would get to that three o’clock or thereabouts that time and realize “Holy smokes,

I’ve gotten nothing productive done,” well, then, that was where my ass got on fire and I started working on things and getting things done.

Even if I just spent a couple of hours knocking through some tasks. Then at least I would end the day, get to dinner time and realize,

“Okay, at least I got this, this, this, this done!” And so it wasn’t a complete loss of the day.

So it can be done, dealing with your procrastination, and working with deadlines. So perhaps you have had better luck with self-imposed deadlines.

And so I am all ears for people giving me ideas about productivity and managing your time, and ways to improve that because I feel like it’s, well,

I’m a complete nerd about productivity and time management! I love to read about it. I love to

talk about it and write about it and study it. And yeah, because I think I’m always looking for the answer.

I’m always looking for what is the thing that’s going to, what is that perfect system that’s going to cause me to conquer, once and for all, my procrastination and keep me on pace.

But I’m just, I’m trying to just embrace it, and maybe you need to also. So tell me your stories.

If you’d like, you can email me dawn@simplemoneypro. You can also join our free Facebook group,

the SimpleMoney Community, and share your thoughts there. So that’s it for this week. I hope you’ll tune in again next week.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the SimpleMoney Podcast, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player.

We’d love it if you would leave us feedback and a review. And don’t forget to check out my blog at simplemoneypro.com.

There you’ll find dozens of posts about financial issues that matter to you, as well as thought-provoking pieces about simplifying your life.

Bye for now.


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