Archive for the 'scheduling' Category


overworked = oversleeping

My six days in California were amazing.  Sure, I was working most of it, but I made some time for site-seeing also.  Trying to make the most of my time there, however, meant getting very little down time and sleep.  For seven days (the six days of my trip and one day prior when I was preparing to depart), my schedule was packed, and it was nothing but go go go. 

On Sunday I worked for most of the day, spent the remainder of it packing and hitting all of the cliché San Francisco tourist spots, and then hopped on the red-eye at 10:30 PM.  Needless to say, I passed out immediately, and before I knew it the five and a half hour flight was ending.  I foolishly thought, as we got off the plane, that those five hours would be enough to sustain me for the rest of the day.  I planned on catching up on sleep over the Thanksgiving break, because I did not have time to do so right away with school work, work work, and a tone of laundry to catch up on.  But then, I got back to my apartment and saw my bed.  It looked so inviting and my feet hurt so badly from being on them for seven days straight.  I thought, “Well, I do have forty-five minutes to spare…”  So at 8 AM I crawled into bed without unpacking a single thing and still in my clothes from the night before.  And at 2:45 PM I woke, having slept a whole six hours longer than I intended.  I had slept through two alarms, the time I allotted myself to do laundry, four hours of work I had committed myself to, and about an hour or so of time to catch up on school work.

I have never overslept before.  I make sure to set two alarms just to ensure that I will not.  What I took away from my California trip, however, is that I rush too much.  I often go from one thing to the next without being present and without taking anything in.  I can be too focused on getting things done that I sometimes disregard what’s best for myself and my health.  So while I was disappointed that I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to yesterday, I ultimately shrugged it off, rescheduled my tasks, and thought, “Wow, I really needed that sleep.”

The take away this week is that being busy is okay.  Working hard is okay.  Being dedicated is okay.  But one’s health and well-being should always be a priority.  You cannot do the work you need to do to the best of your ability if you are sleep deprived, worn out, or in the wrong state-of-mind.  This week spend your two minutes of procrastination doing something relaxing, and remember to always put your health before getting things done.


it’s not procrasination if …

Yes, I hate procrastination.  I recognize, however, that sometimes there are just too many things on my to do list.  Sometimes there is just no way to conquer everything that needs to get done in the day.  There ars times when tasks have to be put off to preserve sanity.  And, that’s not procrastination – at least not in my book.  There are times when postponing things for valid inescapable reasons is acceptable, and there should be no guilt in these scenarios.  Being able to tell the difference between postponing and procrastinating is important so that you recognize when its okay to put things off and when you should get to work.  But, how can you know?

  1. Capacity.  When you are considering whether or not to postpone a task, consider your capacity to do that task in the given timeframe.  Could you possibly get the task done?  Do you have enough free time to accomodate this task? Would that result in working into the later hours of the evening? 
  2. Deadlines.  Next, consider by when the task needs to be completed.  Is the deadline fast approaching?  Is the deadline more fluid?  Can you extend the deadline?
  3. Schedule. Lastly, take into consideration the busyness of your schedule in the coming days.  Will your schedule free up later?  Will it only get busier?  When do you have more time?  How long will you have to postpone this task?

Let me just reiterate here, I hate procrastination.  I am in no way supporting it.  It is important to realize, however, that somtimes postponing things is just inescapable.  For example, at one of my jobs I am helping to plan a conference.  While I have various tasks and responsiblities at this job, I have put almost all of those projects on hold so that I have time to plan this conference (which is fast-approaching).  I have been working on only one non-conference-related project, because this project is extremely time sensitive.  In this scenario I recognized that I could not handle all my usual work on top of the conference planning.  I noted the deadlines of each project and figured out which ones could be put off until later.  And, I made sure that I would have time to do these tasks later.

Do not procrastinate this week.  Rather, keep in mind that being stressed will not help your productivity.  When things get busy, reevaluate and postpone the tasks you can.  That’s not procrastiation.  That’s just smart!  Click here for your two minutes of procrastination.



poorly planned

It seems to be a running joke in my circle of friends to point out when someone repeatedly uses a word or phrase.  One such phrase for which we keep an ear out (then ridicule whoever has used it) is, “poorly planned.”  My friend started using the phrase a few years ago in situations when something did not work out correctly.  By now, however, we have come to use the phrase for just about any situation or scenario that goes awry.

When you are plagued with a busy schedule, particularly when you are a student and your attention is constantly consumed with theories and concepts (and deadlines and due dates), it’s easy to forget about miniscule aspects of planning.  A million different things can result in your failure to consider all the logistics of your busy schedule.  And, then you are stuck in a situation that was just really “poorly planned.”  These scenarios are not rare for anyone, but people with busy schedules are particularly susceptible to them.  Not only that, but we are more likely to be set back/have our days thrown really out of whack by them, too. 

When I picked up a third job this semester, I began experiencing this sort of thing of a daily basis, and so I developed a strategy to make sure the logistics of my schedule were worked out in advance.  Every night now I set aside half an hour (I set aside so much time because I have a lot of logistics to consider; others may need only ten minutes or less for this technique), during which I review my planner for the following day.  I pack everything that I will need for each item in my planner.  Then, and this is the innovative part, I think about the transitions between tasks.  Will I be traveling somewhere new?  Will I be out all day (do I need to pack a lunch)?  Will I have a long break during the day (should I pack some schoolwork or reading to do during this time)?  The answers to these questions and others help me to prepare for the next day more fully.  And, going through this exercise ensures that nothing is forgotten or “poorly planned.”

Taking the time out to plan the logistics of your day may seem like a lot of work or time to dedicate to something so trivial.  When you reduce your tendency of forgetting things drastically, however, it all suddenly seems worth it.  Try it out this week.  You’re bound to become a better planner in the process.

Click here for another relaxing two minutes of procrastination.  We survived our midterms, so we deserve it!


riding the waves

Every week is different.  While this statement is probably true any way you slice it, it is particularly true in the realm of scheduling.  It’s just the nature of life that important deadlines and events cluster together.  One week you will be so busy that your work cuts into your sleep time, and other weeks you’ll be so bored you resort to trolling Facebook to fill your free time.  That’s just the way it is.

I blogged last week about how this week was going to be particularly busy for me, and it is.  I have so many deadlines to meet and projects to tackle, my planner cannot accommodate all of them.  I literally had to stick post-its into it to be able to fit all of my tasks (ridiculous, I know).  With all of those deadlines comes stress and sleep-deprivation, as well.  Free time is non-existent and crunch time is an understatement.  But, I am smiling through it.

Yes, I am a believer that thinking positively leads to better outcomes, but that is not why I am smiling.  My optimism comes from the fact that after this week, my schedule is practically empty for nearly a month.  I have only one deadline from next week through December!  I’ll have all the time in the world (okay, maybe not all the time) to study, read (leisurely, that excites me so much!), work on the applications I have been putting off, hang with friends I haven’t seen in months, and sleep.  It’s going to be so wonderful.

Busyness and busy schedules are like body surfing in the ocean.  Sometimes there is a cluster of really rough waves, but they are typically followed by a lull where you can rest.  That lull is a great time to relax and regroup, but you should (and in saying this, I remind myself that I, too, should) use this time to recuperate and prepare for the next rush of waves – I mean deadlines and projects.

This week push through your midterms and mid-semester papers/assignments with optimism, because the busyness will not last forever.  Plan a mental health day for after your busy week, take the time to meditate or reflect, and make yourself a nice to do list so that you can have a productive lull. 

Click here for your two minutes of procrastination.  And, click here for more information on your rights when it comes to the stop and frisk policy.



I usually plan for the next week on the Tuesday of the week prior.  This morning I opened up my day planner, and gasp!  An incredibly hectic week is coming my way.  Next week I have three class presentations, three substantial papers due, and a very important seminar for my Fellowship.  Perhaps I should feel stressed, but I’m feeling just fine.

I learned a long time ago that important things – projects, tests, and events – seem to stack up close to each other in clusters.  I’ll have weeks with no real deadlines, then bam – three deadlines in one day.  In the past this would mean stress and cramming, all-nighters and sleep deprivation.  Now, an incredibly busy week means smooth sailing for the most part.  How, you ask?

The first thing to note is that deadlines do not pop up out of nowhere.  They approach at a normal and trackable speed.  Staying aware of these deadlines is half the trick to avoiding a meltdown week.  For example, I have known for awhile now that I had three presentations, three papers, and a seminar coming up next week.  I have been working diligently on all of these projects for some time, chipping away at them slowly so that I will be prepared for Monday the 17th when it rolls around.  And that, my friends, is the second thing to keep in mind when you are facing numerous deadlines simultaneously.  You cannot and will not be able to get to everything all at once last-minute.  The trick is to diffuse such a compact schedule.  Put off until next week anything you can afford to, and plan ahead to tackle the remaining projects the weeks before they are all due.  Again for instance, I started working on one of my papers that is due next week in the second week of September.  By Friday all of the prep work for these projects will (if everything goes as planned) be complete, and I will be ready for a stress-less weekend.

Diffusion as a scheduling technique has two major challenges.  First, you must be aware of your upcoming deadlines.  Put these on your calendars, bulletin boards, dry-erase boards, etc.  If you don’t see them, you won’t realize they are coming until it is too late.  Secondly, you must become a backwards scheduling pro.  It seems like I blog about backwards scheduling all the time, but I assure you it is only because it works so well.  (Click here for a refresher.)  Mastering this technique is truly invaluable.

This week keep in mind that midterms are not far away and with them always comes a bunch of other deadlines all at once.  Get a head start on that studying and those projects now, so that you won’t have to cram later.  Diffuse the busy situation.  Click here for your two minutes of procrastination, and click here to engage in some micro-volunteering!



Scrooge was productive

Who works on Christmas?  Scrooge and I are the first two that come to mind.  That’s right, for the past four years I have gotten up at 4AM on Christmas morning to serve up breakfast pastries and bread at the bakery where I work, because after all Christmas day is one of our busiest of the year.  I wonder if this means Scrooge and I have a similar work ethic, or just a shared aversion to vacation.

Let me be clear, I am not advocating for working on Christmas.  Holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, to relax, and to enjoy some down time.  You should absolutely take some time off from your busy schedule to enjoy the holidays and recharge. 

That being said, the holidays can also be a great time to get caught up with tasks and projects on which you have fallen behind.  Think about it.  When school is closed and you have off from work (as most places of employment – bakeries excluded – are closed for the holidays), you suddenly have tons of free time.  Sure, a good percentage of this time should be dedicated to festivities, but some of it can also be spent proactively.  The holidays should first and foremost be a time to relax and connect with loved ones, but they can also be productive.

This week during our break for Rosh Hashanah, remember that this is an opportunity for you to rest up, but also to catch up.  Work on upcoming assignments, get a head start on studying for midterms, and start researching for your term papers.  Getting things done now can not only free up your schedule later on, but it can also reduce stress by shrinking your to do list.  So make your long weekend count, and be productive! 

Click here for your two minutes of procrastination, and donate your old and broken cell phones to Medic Mobile and Hope Phones through Phi Eta Sigma’s cell phone drive.  You can drop your phones off in room 3300N at John Jay College, or arrange to have them picked up by emailing me at



Every semester the same thing happens.  Students enjoy the slow pace of the first month or two of classes, they procrastinate, and they justify their procrastination by telling themselves that their assignments are not due for months.  And then suddenly, it is the end of the semester, all those assignments are due at the same time, studying for finals consumes all of your time, and you have to cram a semester’s worth of work into a few short weeks.  It is stressful.  It is exhausting.  It is unnecessary.

I have posted here before about my technique for avoiding end of semester cramming (see my post on how to use a day planner).  Simply put, I schedule backwards.  First, I note the deadlines for all of my projects on my calendar, then I start from the very end of the semester.  Working backward, I give myself check points – dates by which I need to finish each project in order to complete them on time.  I note these check points on my calendar, then break the assignment down into daily tasks.  When I employ this method, it is not uncommon for me to end up having daily tasks scheduled in September for a project due in November or December. 

Take, for example, one of my classes this semester that requires a term paper worth 75% of my grade due during the last week of classes.  For this assignment I gave myself a check point in both October before which I plan to complete an outline for the paper and one in November before which I plan to write a first draft.  Then, I broke down the work required to do this paper into daily tasks and scheduled them, starting from December and working back towards September.  I have actually scheduled some time to do research for this paper this week. 

This method is all about being proactive, and it works!  Sure, it feels like a lot of work now, especially while your classmates are procrastinating and enjoying free time.  Believe me, however, when the end of the semester comes they will be scrambling to finish their projects, papers, and studying for finals; and you will be stress-free and well-rested. 

Click here for your two minutes of procrastination, and donate your old and broken cell phones to Medic Mobile through Phi Eta Sigma at John Jay’s Cell Phone Drive during the month of September.  You can bring your phones to room 3300N between 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday, or email me ( to find a way to donate that is more convenient for you.


practice makes efficient

Like many college students, I had mixed feelings about the start of the new semester.  Sure, I am excited to be back at John Jay, seeing my friends regularly and (since I am a nerd) engaging in intellectual dialogue.  But like always, the good comes with some bad.  For me, and for a lot of working students, being back at school means a hectic schedule, long and tiring days, and a lot of added work (and stress).  While I may be an amateur when it comes to coping with stress (for tips on dealing with stressful situations click here),  I pride myself on being an expert when it comes to managing the added work…

Every semester I try to get ahead on my class assignments.  This is especially true during the fall semester, because procrastination only leads to a lot of extra work around the already busy holidays.  This semester, however, I feel particularly ahead of schedule on many of my class assignments and reading.  This is not because I have more time this semester; that is for sure.  If anything, I have less time than ever before.  It is because I am getting things done quicker, and my secret to being speedy is efficiency.

I have posted on ways to increase your efficiency a million times.  There was the Know Yourself post and the Get in the Zone post, just to name a few.  Recently, however, I stumbled upon another great technique that can help get work done in half the time.  The trick is practice.  As my loyal readers already know, this summer I read a ton of books.  All that reading has made me a faster, more efficient reader.  In the past it would take me about an hour to read twenty pages, but now I can read forty in that same time.  I am better at picking out important information, taking notes, and comprehending authors’ main points.  In the past I had to schedule extra time for class reading, but now I am able to get most of my reading done on the train, which means more time for getting ahead (and a less stressful end of the semester).

When I realized that my reading speed literally doubled this summer, I started to think about other things I have come to do more efficiently.  Writing papers comes to mind.  When I started college it would take me days to outline, research, write, and edit papers.  By the time I was finished I was exhausted.  In my senior year I am able to write quality papers is much less time and with much less effort.

My point here is that practice makes perfect.  People say it all the time, but it is true.  If class reading seems daunting because it takes so long, read more.  Over time you will become a faster reader.  If you procrastinate writing papers because it seems exhausting, write more often.  With experience you will be able to articulate your ideas with less concerted effort.  At the start of the semester class work can seem overwhelming, but by the end of the term you will be a pro!  Click here for your two minutes of procrastination.


the gap

Since last week’s post about the 16 (now 17) books I read this summer, I have been asked repeatedly, “How did you do manage that?”  While I stand by everything I said in my last post, I would like to add just one thing.  I realized that every time some would ask me how I had gotten so much reading done while also working full-time I would reply, “Well, I have a two-hour commute both ways, so I have a lot of time.”  My zeal to read and my long commute came together in a perfect storm that produced a very productive summer.

Why am I still rambling on about my summer full of reading?  Well, maybe it is because I am kind of proud that I took a serious bite out of my monster book list.  More importantly I think there is a lesson to be learned here.  I was more efficient at crossing books off of my list, because I had time to read – time that was otherwise unusable.  There was nothing else I could do for those four hours a day when I was stuck on busesor trains, or waiting for them.  I had a gap – free time – and I used it in a productive way. 

As classes start this week, I think it is good to keep in mind that gaps are good.  I know that most college students (and it’s even worse for commuters) who have gaps between their classes typically complain about this in between time because they have to wait around.  But, maybe we are thinking of this in the wrong way.  Maybe this gap time is an opportunity.  Like I used my commute time to read this summer, maybe you can use your gap time in a constructive way.  Perhaps during this time you can read for your next class, do other homework, join a club, volunteer, or make time to socialize and see friends.  If you have gap time, you might as well use it and use it to your advantage.

My friends always ask me how I find time to do everything that I do.  I use a lot of scheduling techniques and tricks, but this has got to be one of my mantra’s:  find a way to make useless time productive.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of squandering your gap time, but this semester try to make the best of it.  Who knows what you can accomplish!  Click here for your two minutes of procrastination.


the cell phone alarm

In the Bronx street cleaners charge down the streets everyday between 11:30AM and 1:30PM.  So at my internship every morning at 11AM there is a scramble to move cars from one side of the street to the other.  Failure to move your car by 11:30AM results in a ticket and sometimes towing.  Failure to move your car back at 1:30PM can have the same consequences.

It is not uncommon for the people I work with to say, “Remind me to move the car later,” or, “Let me know when it is 1:30; I gotta move the car back.”  All too often, however, someone somewhere drops the ball.  We remember ten, fifteen, twenty minutes late and end up running outside.  occasionally, tickets are issued.  In a fit of frustration one day last week my supervisor said, “That’s it.  I’m setting an alarm on my phone!”  And he did, and that day we were not late moving the car.

What I take away from this parking experience is that somethings are just hard to remember.  In the mix of the day when cases pile up on your desk and you run from one thing to the next, you just cannot be expected to remember everything you have to do.  Sometimes we need to resort to extravagant scheduling methods to keep ourselves on track.  Sometimes we need the cell phone alarm.

More often, however, I use post-its.  I know that not everyone shares my affinity for these sticky little pieces of paper, but I think they can be immensely helpful in situations like the one I just described.  They are great little reminders that you can stick just about anywhere.  I usually write small to do lists on them, then stick them to my mirror in my room the night before a busy day.  Other times I make packing lists and stick them on my bag before a long trip.  Post-its are great for leaving reminders for other people, as well. 

Unconventional scheduling techniques can seem weird or over the top at first, but if they work efficiently you should embrace using them.  The cell phone alarm has worked so well that my supervisor has used it again.  When you are faced with a scheduling problem, be creative, be innovative, and don’t be ashamed to be a bit unorthodox.  Click here for your two minutes of procrastination.


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