Tuesday, April 18, 2017


When I was in school I hated group projects. Well, so did almost everyone, but why, specifically, did I hate them?


I guess it's not an unfamiliar story. One person does all the work because everyone else is a slacker and/or waits until the last minute, and that person was often me.

I never really thought I was much of a leader, but in a group situation sometimes I told people what to do because I just wanted to be done and no one was doing anything. I hate group projects partly because almost everyone feels good about putting things off and would like to put them off until it's critical, while I want to get it off my plate as soon as I can (especially if it's something I don't like doing).

This, I will admit, can cause problems. I have rushed forward into completing projects before and found it was to my detriment. I remember one time in school the teacher announced there would be an ongoing project for the entire marking period, and handed out an outline as to what would go in our final report. Given marching orders, I spent only a couple of days completing the tasks and creating a final product, thinking hey, won't it be nice if that's one class I mostly don't have to worry about for the next five weeks? Well, turned out the teacher irresponsibly did not disclose that there would be more structure to this project and we were going to continue getting more specific instruction on each of the report's parts, and we were expected to do them with this additional input. What I'd completed on my own was barely usable. I was pretty bummed.

I LOVE getting things off my checklist. Most of the things it takes me forever to do, like getting back to e-mail or finishing reading books, are not time-sensitive really--there's no deadline, and there's no one really waiting for me to do it by a certain time or sitting around disappointed if I don't do it, so I do the other things.

I find that I worry about getting things done far more if I do them later versus sooner. I feel a nervous sense of not being done and having the tasks hanging over my head, which makes it harder to enjoy the present. I can't just put important things down and forget for a while. So I either do them or I set aside a specific time to do them, knowing I have left myself enough time. Furthermore, I do a much better job on things if I'm not rushing. And given the quality of the work I've had to fix from group project partners giving me their contributions at the last minute, I think most people do better if they give themselves time.

When other people procrastinate in situations when it doesn't affect me, I just kinda feel a little sympathetic for them and maybe a little frustrated on their behalf. But when people knowingly put something off that they had more than enough forewarning to be able to handle it with appropriate time management and it turns out to be something I was depending on or something they need me to fix for them, I get mad.

Just get it done. Leave room for mistakes. Leave room for needing time to get more money. Leave room for needing time to access help tools if the thing wasn't as easy as you expected. Leave room for improvement. Leave room to do it wrong and then find out you need to do it right. 

Leave room to run out of thread on your costume, or to find out it takes way longer than you thought to make that belt. Leave room at tax time for if it turns out you have a question about one of your forms, so you're not calling on tax day and waiting on hold for 90 minutes. Leave room for your computer to fail and eat your homework. Leave room to make that cake the day before the party so you can be sure it won't turn into a brick. Leave room to find a ride to your appointment so you don't turn up late. Leave room to get the lesson plans done, especially if you've never opened the form before and you don't know how to use it. Leave room to decide what you're going to wear if you're conflicted about it. Leave room to clean your house (or have it cleaned) if you're out to impress houseguests instead of staying up all night vacuuming and mopping. Leave room for things to not quite go according to schedule.

What do you lose if you plan a little better? Christmas is the same day every year. If you want to cut down on stress and not run the risk of making your problems into someone else's problems that they have to drop everything and solve for you, pretend Christmas is two weeks before it is, and get the shopping done. You'll pay far fewer rush shipping fees, deal with far fewer crises when it's the wrong color, and endure far less embarrassment over screwing it up.

I'll say one more thing to soften this up a little, though: I recognize that some things are last minute because of things you can't control (like, you know, you work for people who won't stop giving you things at the last minute, or because someone else didn't do their job, or because you are consistently overburdened). I'm not irritated at people who have extenuating circumstances, disorders that inhibit their executive function, or simply occasional lapses of common sense.

I'm irritated with people who consistently put things off when they have complete power to not do that, and who overestimate their abilities and underestimate the required effort, and who need me to fix the mess or affect my ability to do my job because they won't do theirs in a timely manner.

No comments:

Post a Comment