Not everyone knows this. But, I am in recovery. I remember the last intervention that saved my life. Here is the back story: August 2018, I took that brave leap from one aspect of social worker to the next. I went from managing a team of professionals who provide mental health mobile crisis response to accepting a full time social work teaching gig at a local university. I felt ready for this new adventure, even with the mixed nervousness and excitement.
The unknown demands of college faculty life was what made me most nervous. I was leaving a very predictable job (as predictable as crisis work can be) to one that required me to learn new skills and work muscles that I never knew existed. I was familiar with teaching already. I started off as part time faculty in 2017 and went from teaching 2 classes to 5 classes full-time when I accepted the full-time position. Each course was full of new prep, textbooks I had to read, students I had to get to know, and new faculty policies I had to follow. I struggled with time management like never before. It was then that I came to terms that I was truly a chronic procrastinator. I would get anxiety about completing a task that took me out of my comfort zone. So I would wait until the very last minute to complete it. The stress was unnecessary, overwhelming and paralyzing. It meant poor performance.
Well, I must admit. That was me all day LONG. UNTIL I started teaching full-time. My misunderstanding AND anxiety surrounding the demands of grading, class prep, managing the classroom for 2.5 hours each class ON TOP of my own personal life responsibilities lead me to poor sleeping, losing weight, poor eating habits and insecurities that affected my interpersonal interactions at work and at home. Your chronic procrastination symptoms may not be that severe. But for me, it was a real struggle until I asked for help.
Which leads me to my question for you:
How are your time management skills? Are you a chronic procrastinator? Is waiting to the last minute your thing? Have you convinced yourself that you do your best work in crunch time?
My help came from an educational specialist named Mandy McGrew. I contacted her department at our institution upon the recommendation of another faculty member who knew exactly what it is like to dive headfirst into teaching without real understanding of the demands. Mandy asked me “Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law? In my ignorance, I replied, “Umm, I have heard of Parkinson’s disease”. She chuckled and shared wisdom that would change my life forever!
Parkinson’s law is the adage that states an activity or work will take as much time to complete as you allow it (paraphrase). For example: ever wonder how you are able to clean your whole house in 45 minutes when you find out that you were having guests coming over. Or how you could finish your case notes within an hour, right when your supervisor needs them. You only gave yourself one hour...and that’s all it took. Keep in mind. Time is the great equalizer. We all get the same 24hours of a day. You have the power to give each activity the amount of time you want it to have. Like Captain Planet says, "The Power is Yours!" (I'm an 80's Baby).
If you say, I am going to fold clothes this weekend, somehow it takes ALL weekend to get it done. That is Parkinson’s Law. With this law and finally getting fed-up with the highs and lows of procrastinating I came to some serious conclusions. Grading papers effectively would take x amount of hours. So, that is all I would gave it. I came to the conclusion that class preparation needed a certain amount of time, per class. So that is all it got. I have 2 hours to complete it, and would hold myself accountable (that’s another blog, :) Understand the principle of Parkinson's law was the intervention that I needed to get me on the right track towards REAL change in managing my time personally and professionally... Could you use a little help?
STRATEGIES FOR THE CHRONIC PROCRASTINATOR