Don't Delay

Understanding procrastination and how to achieve our goals

The Last Lecture: Wisdom About Time Management

Time is truly a limited resource.

Stuck in the airport returning home from an emotionally exhausting day, tired and fighting an awful chest cold, my flight delayed to the wee hours of the morning, I stretched out on the seats in the waiting area with Randy Pausch's book, "The Last Lecture." His lecture, his life, has some important messages regarding our goal pursuit.

I had seen Randy's lecture on YouTube, but not read the book. By the time I finished the book on the plane, I was in tears of course. I too am the father of very young children, and I'm older than Randy. His story touched on some of my deepest fears of loss. His story clearly speaks of time as a limited resource, something that 20-somethings rarely grasp, but by middle-age becomes painfully obvious to many people.

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As Randy puts it, "Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think" (p. 111).

Randy, a self-admitted intensely focused person, understood the importance of time management long before his terminal cancer diagnosis. It is, as he called it, "one of my most appropriate fixations" (p. 108). He also was good at it, so he offered up advice from his experience that is worth sharing on this "Don't Delay" blog. I have quoted each of his main tips below with an explanatory comment or example in parentheses after each, as necessary.

Time must be explicitly managed, like money.

You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
(Make manageable, concrete task lists and take one step after another.)

Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things?
(Make sure your to-do-list tasks, your goals, are really worth pursuing.)

Develop a good filing system.
(Organization saves time in the long run.)

Rethink the telephone.
(Don't waste time on "hold" - be prepared to do other things as you wait.)

Delegate.
(Many hands make light work, and everyone needs autonomy.)

Take time out.
(Everyone needs a break, and not all delay is procrastination.)

Randy concludes his advice by writing, "Some of my time management tips are dead-on serious and some are a bit tongue-in-cheek. But I believe all of them are worth considering" (p. 111).

So do I, particularly where he begins, "time must be explicitly managed" and where he ends, "Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think."

Are you spending your time on the right things? Procrastination is the thief of time.

 

Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where he specializes in the study of procrastination.

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