Cram Early is my best time management tip. This is also one of my best stress reduction strategies and procrastination cure.
Most people worry about big tasks with deadlines. Our brains avoid big tasks. Combining big tasks with a deadline sends our brains into panic mode.
Deadlines give us much unnecessary stress. Our lizard brain is afraid of deadlines, especially those given to us by other people. Big tasks and deadlines (given by other people) make us procrastinate.
We avoid what’s difficult to do. So, we do other things instead. We do easy things that help us justify our fear. Our being busy is our justification for not doing what’s most important.
But the deadlines will surely come. And though we fear big tasks, we will fight (or run away). Those who choose to fight will cram.
Procrastinators cram out of fear. They’ll attempt to do in three hours what they failed to start and finish in three months. Cramming works because our brains can do magic.
To reduce unnecessary stress, cram early. Give yourself another deadline, one that will come earlier than what your boss has given you.
The Cram Early Steps
I know that you are not a superhuman. I am not too. But we can do more by helping ourselves do more work in less time. We can do that by looking for ways to become more efficient.
Let’s work on an example.
Your boss gave you a task to finish a project in 14 days. The project is not important to you. It is not in your one thing. But you need to do it because you want to keep your job and some other valid reasons.
Of course, you can keep yourself busy. You can join all meetings. They are important to your boss too. But they are not as important as the project he has given you.
Here are the steps.
- Ask the accountability questions.
- Identify the challenges.
- Define the skills you need.
- Find the support you can get.
- Do it.
Let’s dig deep.
1. Ask the accountability questions.
I call these accountability questions because it reminds me that I am the owner of the problem. I can do something because I will find ways. I will give you examples. I will use X to represent your project.
- What can I do today so I can do X in 10 days?
- What can I do to get knowledge I need to do X in 10 days?
- What skills I will use to do X in 10 days?
- How can I do X effectively in 10 days?
You can add more questions to help you find solutions to your X challenge. What’s important here is that though I am asking you to cram early, what actually want is for us to become more effective and efficient.
You cram early when you expect to do all the steps faster than usual. But what if there are ways to do it half the time? Giving yourself an earlier deadline encourage your brain to do the magic.
2. Identify the challenges.
Identifying challenges include all the constraints: time, resources, skills, and people. It is another way of asking yourself “How can I do X in 10 days given the limited resources”.
Your brain will work wonders. You only need to ask tough questions.
3. Define the skills you need.
Think about the skills you need to finish the project in fewer days. These skills may include organizing, time management, delegation, communication, and others.
What’s important here is to identify the skills you already have based on your earlier experiences with related projects.
Find also the other skills that you can get from others. You don’t have to do everything to get things done.
4. Find support from others.
You can delegate work to your subordinates if you have any. Bring people together so they can help you get things done.
I found that outsourcing also helps us get things done. There are people who are willing to do a portion of our projects for less money faster.
Let’s admit it. We do not know everything.
For example, some of us cannot do PowerPoint presentations that sing while telling stories. Others can do this in a matter of an hour for less than 500 pesos. Of course, we don’t want to spend our own money.
But at times, I think of that 500 pesos as the money I pay for another massage to relieve my stress. But you don’t have to spend your money. If the project has a budget, then consider allocating money for outsourcing tasks.
5. Just do it.
That’s the final one. The problem with much just-do-it advice is that they are done without thinking and planning.
The accountability questions can help you think and plan. You will know what to do when enthusiasm wanes. Without planning just-do-it results in ningas kugon and frustrations.
I do not recommend cramming to most people. But if you need to do it, you must do it intelligently. You do not need to procrastinate when you are intentional.
Bonus Idea: Deadlines are terrifying. So, instead of using the word deadline, why not use the word lifeline? You cram early intelligently. The time you do it is your lifeline.
You will find more self-improvement tips on this website. There are dozens of them. I suggest you consider the following for your next reading. Each will help you move a little further.
Contact me when you have questions about personal development, motivation, or leadership. I will be happy to find answers to your questions — or help you find answers too.
I don’t have all the answers in the world. But I know how to ask a tough question. In truth, most of what I write here are questions about by people who attended my Breakthrough Workshops.
Write your questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the subject line: Questions about Procrastination or whatever subject you have in mind.
That’s it. I hope you have seen the power of cramming early to cure procrastination.