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Last minute productivity – is it worth it?

16 May 2021

I think it’s so important to be able to self-evaluate and recognise areas that you need to work on, so today I want to reflect on a topic which many of you may resonate with: procrastination & last minute productivity. I believe it is actually one of my weaknesses, which often leads to burnout.

Even this week, if you’ve been following my previous weekly reflections, you’ll notice that I usually post these reflections on a Tuesday, which I’ve tried to implement as part of my routine of weekly activities and tasks. However, I’ve been so caught up in last-minute preparation and work that I’ve been so tired and had to put off some tasks for the weekend!

In this blog, I am going to draw on my experiences but some of my solutions/ action points to tackle this, which may be of benefit to you too!

For those reading this who know me well, it may come as a surprise that I do have the tendency to procrastinate sometimes, as I actually am an organised person! However, sometimes I can rely too much on being so apparent of my deadlines that I try to somehow calculate the minimum amount of time that I can achieve a task and so the pressure of it gettting it done in that period gives me accountability to force me to be productive.

Although I think it can be useful having the ability to produce high-quality work on tight deadlines, most of the time it’s myself working too close to deadlines which I’ve had plenty of notice about! Furthermore, I get too complacent knowing that I will always get the task done and hence where the procrastination sets in (though there have been times where I have cut it so close I’ve shocked myself!).

For example, I had a 4000 word assignment write-up which I had known about for months, which I could have easily written in bits as I went along; but I decided to write it out in five days! It took me a lot longer than I anticipated as I had to review literature and find suitable papers to reference in my assignment. Furthermore, having procrastinated in the day, I was writing in the evenings staying up to ridiculous hours of the mornings to get it done. Here’s three things I learnt from this experience:

  1. Protect your sleep time – it’s not worth the exhaustion
  2. Make sure to have a full understanding of what materials and resources you will need for a task to account for
  3. Give yourself time away to come back to proof-read

Having submitted the assignment very close to the deadline whilst juggling interacting in a zoom meeting, my energy completely crashed – I know I did not look after myself properly, hence I was so grateful to be able to go home for the weekend to reset myself.

Even in the past week, similar events occurred for submitting a poster assignment and also last-minute prep for presentations. I know that if I continue in this way, it’s too dangerous for myself so I am putting in measures to take this more seriously:

Solution 1: giving myself false deadlines

For all my other activities and tasks that I assign to colleagues in committees, I always give false deadlines to ensure we stick to plans and are well organised ahead of events, so I need to be more intentional with doing this myself! Furthermore, sometimes I find useful for some important tasks to ask someone to check in to remind me as accountability if I haven’t done it.

Solution 2: having an adaptable to-do list!

For someone who is a multitasker and involved with lots of activities, I used to have lots of sticky notes on my desk for different tasks I needed to do, but actually not only was I wasting paper, it was not efficient. I’ve recently started using the Microsoft To-Do list app, which has changed my life! I can categorise my tasks and then choose what tasks I want to add to my day as well! Furthermore, some tasks I can breakdown into sub-tasks which I find helps as I like to break activities down into little steps as milestones!

So apart from this blog today, I finish two presentations for my recent projects and prepare handover materials which I can duplicate for my two societies. I can set reminders in the day for tasks and also add due days as well as regular reminders for some activities such as daily for my Anki (online flashcards) or weekly for my blogs.

Solution 3: It’s okay to say no

Often the reason why I am falling into the trap of last minute productivity is saying yes to things at last minute, on top of my usual regular activities. As much I love variety in my activities and new challenges, the most important thing I have to remind myself is my wellbeing. It’s not worth exhausting myself to please others, so once again I need to be more intentional with my time.

I hope you enjoyed this honest insight. Often as medics, we are too afraid to share about our weaknesses and I found this quite therapeutic reflecting and learning from my experiences. I will be back on track for regular Tuesday reflections so come back in a few days where I will be returning to release some core content for my blog!

Note for prospective students: if you are looking for more structured content on medicine applications/ medicine at Cardiff or anything else, please head to my homepage to find the links to all of my previous blogs and a link to message me on Unibuddy where I am available all year round to assist your queries!