Thursday, July 29, 2010

procrastination affliction

a sort-of confessional
i am a whiz at getting the little things done. i thrive on little mini-deadlines -- a daily list of tasks, for example. but -- and this might surprise some of you to read this -- the BIG stuff has always thrown me for a loop! in college, i was pretty organized and kept up with day-to-day things, like reading for classes and science problem sets. but when it came to the BIG projects, i was totally the queen of procrastination, leaving papers and the more intimidating assignments for the very last second.

unfortunately, eight years post-graduation (how did THAT happen?), i still suffer from an element of this affliction. in fact, the more terrifying a project is (back then: senior thesis; now: grant-writing) the more likely i am to stress over it hardcore yet manage to avoid it completely.

i do not recommend this strategy. at all.

i get filled with an uneasy sensation whenever i see several of such projects on my plate. right now, there are 3:

research proposal (due august 9)
HLS presentation (to be given august 14)
reproductive endo talk for department meeting (august 9)

the truth is, i've already DONE a lot of the legwork for the research proposal and the HLS talk. but i am at the 'actually write the powerpoint/put together the final document' stage on both, and i can feel myself starting to get nervous and overwhelmed. so of course, i've been studiously avoiding each of them.

time to break up this procrastination party!
once these projects are over with, i am very likely to have 3 more on the horizon of similar size and scope. in fact, i suspect this is just going to be my new reality during fellowship. but living with the aforementioned uneasiness is unpleasant and ineffective -- honestly, i think that procrastination erodes my soul.

so, i have decided to stop. triage and prioritizing are necessary realities, but always shoving the biggest items to the bottom of the list -- not so much. everything i have read on the subject suggests breaking up big projects into smaller tasks, so that is what i will start with. the other thing i am considering is dedicating a minimum amount of time (to be done during the work day OR at home) to big projects only.

how do you manage big projects? any prior procrastinators out there who have reformed? share your secrets! (please!).

off to run -- without further delay, of course! luckily, workouts are not something i tend to push off until 'later.'



workout: 30 minutes elliptical (levels 9 - 12) and 30 minutes lower body strength training

cooking light quesadilla: chicken, peaches + melty pepper jack = who knew?

served with the season's bounty:

local yellow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers

board prep: 2nd half of 'prevention' section of LYW.


  1. You can do it...

  2. No real advice from me. I do think the breaking things up works because once I see a small success I'm motivated to keep going.

    I can't wait to make those quesadillas and the proscuitto and melon pasta salad, BTW.

  3. Have you read the book "First Things First"? Its an interesting discussion and strategy for prioritizing things our lives so that we aren't running around so hectic. Worth a read. :)

  4. My MO over the years has been to start big projects as EARLY as possible--ideally, the day (or week) I learn of them. That way, deadlines seem far less daunting--and stress-provoking--by being further down the road as I work. Of course, that strategy can't help you for your looming August deadlines, but perhaps it can for future deadlines. Good luck! L, da

  5. Anonymous8:17 AM

    omg it makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER to know that you do this too. for me it's all about just jumping in and knowing that first few days of getting a large project are going to be nonsense because i just need to *do* and not *think*. that way as the deadline approaches it's not so bad because i have something down already

  6. I'm no expert but one thing I've heard about is the "30 min rule" whereby you do 30 minutes of work on a big project the day you find out about it (even if it's not due for months). This gives you somewhere to start rather than spending weeks looking at a project and wondering what to do first.

    Also, I'm a big fan of just getting out a notepad and jotting ideas down or making an outline...anything to get the ball rolling. If you have some rough ideas, even if they're bad, you have something to improve upon.

    GL! You can do it!

  7. breaking it up helps a lot! I like using an online or phone stopwatch- work 30 minutes, reward yourself with reading a blog or getting up and moving around for 5 minutes, repeat. It goes quickly and since you are timing yourself it adds a little more pressure but nothing too stressful. Good luck, you do have a lot on your plate!

  8. Anonymous9:12 AM

    Unfortunately, I am afflicted with the same disorder. My new mantra right now is "DON'T rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic!"
    I agree with Katie - setting a timer works. I bought a small digital timer for my desk. Even 15 minutes of work on a project I dread helps move things along.

  9. I'm the opposite. I tackle the big stuff first, and manage to get the little things done.
    You'll be fine no matter what, you always are!

  10. atilla10:39 AM

    I just sit down and plod thru whenever I actually have the time. I'm looking at three projects right now not to speak of bringing in a new assoc and converting to electronic records. It can be overwelming