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Why Some Procrastinators Succeed and What We Can Learn From Them

Why Some Procrastinators Succeed and What We Can Learn From Them

By Pat Flynn on

When I was in Architecture school at Berkeley (Go Bears!), my classmates and I suffered long, hard nights at the studio drawing massive plans, building detailed models and drinking lots and lots of caffeine.

Some of our semester long projects required over 60 hours of work per week, in addition to our actual class time for both Architecture and general education courses. It was nuts, and because we had segments of the semester long project due about every 2 weeks, I often found myself pulling all-nighters, crashing on a nearby couch, or in a sleeping bag under my desk.

Most of my classmates were right there with me, pencils in hand—however there were a few select students who just seemed to never be around until the last couple of days before each deadline.

My studio mates and I always thought, “There’s no way these people are going to finish in time. We’ve been here for almost 2 weeks straight, and they come in with 2 days left before the deadline with nothing.”

Well—when the deadline came around and our graduate assistants and professors looked at our work, some of the “procrastinators” always seemed to get the better comments.

Truthfully, it bugged the crap out of the rest of us! As a result (sadly), those students were segmented from the rest of the group because we couldn’t stand how they could get so much good work done in such little time. It just didn’t seem fair. They weren’t in the studio much to talk to anyways.

Fortunately, I ended up becoming good friends with one of the “procrastinators” because we were both in the Marching Band together. I eventually ended up talking to her about why she comes in with only a few days left before a project was due, and this is what I remember she said:

“There are a few of reasons. First, I know if I spend all of my time in studio with you guys, we’ll chat all day and all night and probably get nothing done. I’m actually glad the rest of you feel this way about me, because then you won’t talk to me when I do come in and I can focus and get my work done.

“Secondly, it’s because the deadline works in my favor. It forces me to be extremely focused, because I have no other option but to be focused. Putting things off and not making decisions doesn’t become an option anymore, and I can get more done.

“Third, I have so many other things to do, and so many other things I’d much rather be doing than spending all my time in studio. No offense, Pat.”

Here is what I (and you, possibly) can take away from this kind of mindset and approach:

  1. Just because you’re spending time doing something doesn’t actually mean you’re getting things done. Yes—I was basically living in the studio and doing “work”, but was I focused and doing work the entire time? No.
  2. Minimize distractions to maximize efficiency.
  3. Be smart about your time. Time is something we cannot get back, so being efficient and smart about what you do with your time matters a lot. Stay laser-focused.
  4. Understand what makes you laser-focused. For my marching band friend, her came from the approaching deadline. For you, it may be something different. Force yourself to be focused when you want to get things done. This combines perfectly with #2.
  5. What she said about “…not making decisions doesn’t become an option anymore” really struck a chord with me. Many times, we find ourselves working on projects, websites and businesses, and not following through because there’s something “just not right” about it, or it’s not perfect. Well, nothing good will happen until you launch, until you actually finish your project and make those decisions.
  6. Understand what you want in life, set your priorities, and do what it takes to make it happen.

There are two types of procrastinators in the world: the lazy ones who waste time, and the smart ones that control time. Luckily, I met a smart one and learned a lot about how she utilized her time and forced herself to stay focused.

Should you be a procrastinator?

No.

Should you strive to be efficient, maximize your efforts and stop wasting time, so you can spend time doing other things that you love?

Absolutely.

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