Mindful Moments: Stories and Lessons of Procrastination

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Archive for the ‘goals’ Category

Flux time = permission to take longer than expected.

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“Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today” is the maxim. Ignoring it is my personal favorite form of procrastination. “Tomorrow I’ve got 4 hours open. I’ll get this done work then, no problem. And so today I can goof around, right?” Uh uh.

It turns out that people consistently underestimate how much time it will take to get something done. This throws your schedule way off if you’re counting on doing more tomorrow. Plus not staying on schedule can, in and of itself, be demotivating: a bad feedback loop.

So what’s the tip for dealing with underestimation? It’s not enough to just say “This will take longer than I expect” because we already think we’re making allowances for that when we set our initial time estimate. So instead we can budget a separate flux time which we can either use on project that go over time or for goofing around if we get ahead. That’s right… goofing around is OK! Especially if it’s a reward for being on top of things.

It’s easier to see the logic of this when we look at a group that needs help scheduling time… Let’s say you’re setting the agenda to a meeting with a hard two hour time limit. It will help your group to have written expectations for how long each section of the meeting will take. So you make your best guess… this topic will take 10 minutes to go over, this discussion can be capped at 20 minutes, introductions should take more than 5 minutes… etc. Well we all know that meeting items can take longer than we want them to. So are we setting ourselves up to fail by writing down how long they should take? Not if we use flux time. Adding “Flux time: 20 minutes” to the bottom of a 1 hour and 40 minute meeting agenda lets us have permission to spend a bit longer on any meeting section that needs extra time. If a discussion goes longer, for example, then the group can quickly decide to use some flux time to get to a good stopping place before moving on. And at the end of the meeting, if you didn’t use all your flux time then that extra time can be spent chatting or getting back to doing something else ahead of schedule.

Flux time is equally helpful for our own project estimations. Once we get past the ego issue, setting personal flux time as part of any project estimation can be very helpful. The percentage of flux time to schedule will vary, but I’d suggest starting with the most amount of time you’ve ever gone over on a schedule in the past. If you start out with 100% flux time scheduled then that’s totally ok. You can always decrease that percentage as you get used to it. And remember to take that extra time to do something as a reward!


Written by clayward

March 29, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Posted in goals, tips

Daily Discipline: Not Going Nuts

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There aren’t many people out there who feel like they have longterm job stability. And plenty of us aren’t getting a pay check at all. So how can we feel productive and valuable members of society? Well we can help out of course, volunteer, work on our resume, take classes, engage our community, etc. There are a ton of options. But let’s face it, keeping yourself engaged day to day is challenging. So how can we make it work?

My advice is… do something that forces you to leave your comfort zone every day. I can’t tell you what that is, but I can say that this small discipline will help “break the ice” and keep your spirit challenged and engaged.

This guy, Reed Sandridge, he’s been giving $10 away every day and will continue doing so for 365 days. In a sense he’s a performance artists, a philanthropist, and a social worker. But what I’m really interested in is that he’s come up with a wonderful way to help himself get out of the house. In his own words? “being unemployed, I was starting to go nuts.”

Good work, Reed.

Written by clayward

March 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Posted in goals, stories, tips

Create something small, daily.

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This is useful advice for anyone doing creative work. Writers often talk about how writing every day is a great way to progress as a creator (and of course to be more prolific). My adviser, Tom Butter, asked me to make a sculpture every day when I was in grad school.

So for comedy? Jerry Seinfeld’s working technique has gotten a lot of attention. The “do it every day” technique…


Written by clayward

February 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Posted in goals, tips

Set clear and easy goals.

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Thanksgiving brings long nights and holiday lights.  Here in New England that means no more ultimate frisbee and not that much exercise.  So it’s a good time for me to hunker down with a cup of hot liquid and get some work done… if I don’t lose focus and start getting glum.  So how to keep on task?

According to Burka and Yuen, authors of Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It, setting goals isn’t as easy as it sounds.  “many [procrastinators] are busy setting goals all the time.  They almost always set ambiguous goals, as, “I’ve got to get some work done today” or overly ambitious ones, as, “I want to be president of my own company someday.”” (p. 131)

So this brings us to our ProcrasDonate tip for the day.  Make measurable goals for yourself.  How about “I’ll make an outline for the report I’m working on today.”  Or “I’ll ask my boss for an appointment to talk about how to advance my career today.”

For me – getting little things done is satisfying enough.  I don’t want to risk disappointing myself if I can’t get big goals accomplished.  Getting many little things done is how I can get big things done without realizing it.

Here’s how someone at Web Worker Daily plans for holiday productivity.

Written by clayward

November 26, 2009 at 10:19 am

Posted in goals, tips

Get yourself something from the dining tube.

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Hi there.  I’m Clay, one of the founders of ProcrasDonate.com, an online service that can help you procrastinate less.  I’m going to be a regular submitter to this blog, so I thought that I’d say hello.  “Hi!”

This is a public promise to myself to learn and write about procrastination, time, and an improved relationship to work in general.  It would be nice if I could make this blog into a useful resource and discussion forum for people who are interested in getting stuff done.  Maybe one post will be about theraputic measurements of procrastination and the next will be about taking breaks.  We’ll see.  I’ve been doing some reading already and that has been fun.

Oh, and I should say “Hi, I’m a part-time Procrastinator and sometimes I feel addicted to the internet.”  Glad that’s over with (am I supposed to repeat that in later posts?  I’ll try and spare you.)  I once took a whole year off of both email and the internet.  That helped me chill out a bit.  So now I’ll be sharing the stuff I’m learning about all of that.  Glad you’re here for the journey.  Buckle up, comment where you like, and get yourself something from the dining tube.

As you probably know, ProcrasDonate.com helps you create charitable incentives to celebrate the time you spend online.  I’m really psyched about it and that’s why we’re keeping this blog.  But I’m not just excited about helping you create a “time is money” association with the physical process of being on the internet.  I’m also really into the more holistic side of the service.  Like maybe being in control of our time means we’ll have more time to chill, cook for ourselves, play ultimate frisbee, or whatever else we’d actually rather be doing.  That just with our curiosity we can make the change that we want to see in the world, exerting our positive will, making that power manifest a dollar at a time.  And more than that… for me this is about getting a better relationship with the way that I do work in general… the way that I value the one of my primary experiences of being with myself.


Written by clayward

September 22, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Posted in addiction, goals