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Sound Writing

Subsection 10.3.5 Good Time Management

The root of time management is using time well, and using your time well requires understanding the time you have. Depending on how much you enjoy being organized already and how busy or unstructured your life is, you may already have a knack for figuring out what time of day you do your best work, when you have different amounts of free time, and a good sense of how long your work will take.
Understanding procrastination helps us identify strategies we can use to avoid it. In particular, breaking down an intimidating project early-on is an essential skill to have when approaching a daunting task. But how do you create good goals that will help you chip away at a big assignment? One way is to ensure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, or SMART for short. So if writing a lab-report is the intimidating project that you’re procrastinating on, writing a goal like “write lab report” in your planner is not especially useful. It’s not a sub-goal, and it doesn’t give you something specific to work on, so it’s far more likely to trigger the “aaaaaaaahhh that’s so much to do” reaction that’s likely to lead to procrastination.

Example 10.3.4. Get SMART: Lab Report.

Original goal
“Write lab report.”
SMART goal
“Write intro and methods sections before 9 pm on Wednesday.”

Example 10.3.5. Get SMART: Spanish Test.

Original goal:
“Study for Spanish test”
SMART goal:
“Memorize 30 new Spanish vocab words for 1 hour on Tuesday after seminar.”

Example 10.3.6. Get SMART: Essay.

Original goal:
“Stop procrastinating and write that essay”
SMART goal:
“Leave phone at home, go to the library Monday morning for 3 hours, and write an outline and a list of evidence I’m going to use for my SOAN paper. I get two 5-minute breaks.”
Notice that some of the goals in the preceding examples aren’t just about the goal itself; the last one, for example, addresses the environment in which you want to pursue your goal and what “anti-procrastination promises” you need to make to ensure that you can follow-through on your goal. If you break a large project into several goals that you can give yourself on several different days, you have to start far in advance of the due date, but you also make progress far ahead of the due date and have time to ask questions and improve your work as you go. You’ll produce a better final product, and achieving small goals along the way feels good!