Fight Distraction and Keep Taking Action – TUB-Thump 036

TUB-Thump 036 Temp Logo

When you’re distracted or bothered by something, get rid of it.

If you can’t do that, work out how to move past the distraction or deal with it differently instead.

It’s time…for a different…TUB-Thump.

Don’t worry, it’s only for Episode 036…The intro and ending will be back next time. Promise!

And so will the more detailed show notes. For now, it’s all about making a point:

Keep taking action. Even when it’s basic.

And, of course, keep being awesome.

What’s Better than the Assignment Deadline? Making Your Own Deadline.

How do you make your own deadlines? Why are your own deadlines important in the first place?

Whoa there! Let’s back track a bit first.

When you have coursework, what is your relationship with the set deadline?

If it’s like most people, you see a date a long way in the future (it’s at least a week, a month, a term away…) and you put the work to the back of your mind.

That date in the future creeps up much quicker than you realise…mostly because you weren’t thinking about it.

And BAM! You’ve got to play catch-up.

Then you have those wonderful (read: terrible) all-nighters to endure.

The easy advice would be to tell you to start working on your projects the moment they’re assigned.

But you may not want to follow the advice to start working on those projects straight away. You may have other commitments at the moment anyway.

The good news is that you can still prepare without the need for a desperate last minute attempt. It’s the happy medium between insta-work and much too late.

Make your own deadlines.

The Muse has helpfully published a piece on “4 Better Ways to Create Deadlines That You’ll Actually Stick To“. It’s worth reading of its own accord if you’ve got time.

And I’ll put my own take on those tips too:

  1. Make Them Urgent

You know you’re going to have to do that work. It won’t disappear if you ignore it. So set a deadline that works better for you. If you’ve got a quieter week next week, use it. Don’t wait for the official deadline when you’ve got another six pieces to submit…

You have to believe in your deadline, otherwise you’ll just ignore it. That’s why it’s easy for the advice to say “Make them urgent” and it’s harder to convince yourself of that.

My take: If you don’t take your own deadline seriously, you’re not taking the work seriously. Nobody is immune from procrastination, but some handle it better than others. If you slip at this hurdle, it’s time to admit that you need to have words with the little procrastination monster in your head.

I’ve got 10 ways to bypass procrastination. But if you want to understand loads more about the topic (and procrastinate even more!), Wait But Why has a great series of posts:

I said a procrastination monster. But yes, you may call it an instant gratification monkey. Each to their own. 😉

  1. Make Them Personal

“…consider whether focusing on the task in its entirety, piece-by-piece, or in relation to the rest of your projects will make you more likely to sit down and work on it.” –

How you schedule your work is important.

Maybe it’s the task that feels scary. If so, break it down and work on little bits as you go along.

Maybe it’s the way you feel overwhelmed with juggling many deadlines at once. If so, work to your own deadlines rather than those imposed on you by others (see point 1).

Work out what’s stopping you from getting the work done and take action on that.

When it doesn’t feel personal, it can feel like an uncontrollable blob.

When you make it personal, you shape that blob into something cute and fluffy.

Something like that, anyway…

  1. Make Them Actionable

“If ‘finish report,’ will take all afternoon, ask yourself what you could do in 10-minutes: outline the first portion, design two or three slides, or edit what you’ve written so far?”

In other words, get specific. Have quantifiable goals and explicit targets.

You can set a number of personal deadlines. A date for having made an outline, a date for a rough draft, a date for references, a date for editing, and so on.

If you start missing your own deadlines all over the place, that official deadline will feel even scarier. This may be enough to knock you into action, even if it’s mostly down to psychological unrest.

  1. Make Them Meaningful

The advice given is to make your goals known. Find a way to be accountable.

I have mixed feelings on this, although the tip to find meaning definitely stands. Without meaning, you’re nowhere.

But while some people thrive off having accountability buddies and promising the world that you’ll do something (or else!), other people become demotivated.

I recommend that you take Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz, to find out if you prefer to follow outer expectations or inner expectations.

Unless you’re a Rebel, you’ll probably find the best way to make meaning through your deadlines and promises.

And if you’re a Rebel (who resists outer AND inner expectations), Rubin says you may prefer to focus on the reasons why you want to hit that deadline, and even find ways of working that set you apart from what people usually do.

Deadlines can feel icky. Hopefully these tips from The Muse and my take on them will help them feel a bit more manageable from now on.

You may never manage to be deadline-free, but at least you can do it on your own terms now.

Next time, when you’ve finished an essay to your own deadlines, you can sit back and watch as others around you scramble around at the last minute.

But don’t be too harsh. Share this advice with them!

Change, Take Action, Forge Ideas, and Drive

I hope you enjoyed my recent six-part series on Time.  However, the path to success in your studies – and beyond – goes further than effective time management.

Life is unpredictable.  Whether or not you plan into the future, you still want to exercise control over that future.  However, an unexpected event can dramatically alter the course of your life, whether you like it or not.  A change in popular trends, a personal tragedy, an oversight with timely consequences…anything can reshape what’s going on and thrust you in a different place to where you’d expected.  And where you’d calculated.  And which you saw with total certainty until now.

So what’s the point in being so rigid?  Yes, planning is necessary for success…

But so is accepting change.

You may even change yourself.  Scott Young mentions on his site that he’s stopped setting long-term goals, because everyone changes so much so quickly.  If you read what he says, you’ll understand why one of the craziest job interview questions is, “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”

Manage time effectively by initially narrowing your scope, not widening it. Long-term goals are one thing, but they should be based on general ideas.  To achieve those goals, you need to see in smaller chunks of time.

University is definitely a time of massive change to you.  Even a long-term childhood passion can fade away, in place of an even bigger passion.  If you don’t have a passion, it may start developing while you’re an undergraduate.  It’s all to play for.

The best way to focus on the need for change is to review on a regular basis. Review your short-term plans, long-term goals (if you have any right now), and all your personal passions.  Without noticing, you may find that what you held dear last year now leaves you cold.

Once you accept change with open arms, the next thing to do is to *take action*.

You could have the best idea in the world since the dawn of time.  But if you don’t take action to process that idea until it becomes reality, you might as well have not come up with the idea in the first place.

Ideas are funny things.  When you accept change and take action, you still need to go further.  Harvard Business posted an interesting piece a few days back, about structuring experiments for success.  One striking piece of advice is:

“Executives and university administrators should stop trying to predict the success of very early ideas, instead they need to be sure they have enough of them and that their pool of ideas is diverse.”

The suggestion shouldn’t be limited to executives and administrators; I think it’s sound advice, whoever you are.

It’s like when I write.  If I only had a single idea, I wouldn’t last long before running out of steam.  I have a wide range of post ideas on the go at all times.  I write all sorts of notes and even full drafts of posts that, in the end, don’t go anywhere.  I’ll keep them for when it makes sense to bring them out again, but that’s why ideas are so great.  The more you feel for ideas, map out your thoughts and write about all your little lightbulb moments, the better.  Be aware of your ideas at all times to give yourself the best chance of developing.

So far, so positive.  Yet even with a huge list of amazing ideas, you still can’t control everything about your future.  Luckily, you are the very person who can drive it.

That’s the next step.  You’re willing to change, you want to take action, you have ideas.  Now drive!

The poet, Philip Larkin, wrote these words:

“And once you have walked the length of your mind, what
You command is clear as a lading-list.
Anything else must not, for you, be thought
To exist.”

[From Continuing to Live (1954)]

There is so much calling out for your attention, but it’s up to you to filter until you’re left with what you need to succeed.  This is where the big picture really comes into play.  Your life doesn’t roll down a single track and you’re bound to have loads of responsibilities, interests, mates, and so on that you want to make a big part of your existence.

Armed with the want to change, a readiness for action, ideas and drive, your priorities should be crystal clear.  With such clarity, you’ll have more time to enjoy.

So if you ever find yourself at a loss, without a structure, lacking a goal, or lacking control, it’s time to let go of some of the junk cluttering your life.  It may have seemed important a while back, but when you focus on too many things to cope, you might as well not focus on anything at all.