A Doug's Life: Time Management

I'm back.

It's been a long two weeks since my last entry here -- the account of my exciting trip into the skies over Menifee in a hot air balloon. Since then, I have been buried under a pile of term papers. It seems that when you're a college professor, students actually expect to receive a grade for their work in a timely manner.

A couple things: First, I wasn't literally buried under a pile of papers. In this electronic era, all assignments submitted to me are digital. So in reality, my in box was full. Second, it's partly my fault for procrastinating.

Ah, yes, the focus of this column: Procrastination.

Why do so many of us put off until tomorrow (or next week, or next month) what we could do today? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, and the contributing factors are different for each person.

Here are some of mine:

-- A change in surroundings often is refreshing, but also can be a distraction. I've written previously about my fascination with the new opportunities Menifee presents to a guy like me. Yet sometimes I get so busy dreaming about horse ranches, fish ponds and abandoned mines that I forget to actually visit them. Or I visit them and put off writing about them. I think the hot air balloon column was an exception because the crisp, fresh air stimulated my brain cells.

-- Once a sports writer, always a sports writer. I can be sitting at my desk, working on a column or grading papers, and the Clippers basketball game beckons. Suddenly, I'm writing about a three-point play instead of the Countryside Marketplace. Focus, dude!

-- For every time-saving device the electronic age gives us, it presents us with a device that is equally as time-consuming, if not more. On one hand, the automatic insert and "cut and paste" functions of computerized word processing save me lots of time in writing and editing. On the other hand, it's hard to stay focused when your iPhone keeps buzzing, announcing the arrival of a new email, Facebook posting, tweet or some other message out of cyberspace.

-- From the window of my second-floor office at home, I have a great view of the green hillsides and blue skies of Menifee. This is why I moved from Temple City, where my view of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains was blocked by the brick wall of a Ralphs supermarket. Unfortunately, window gazing soon becomes daydreaming, and I'm off track again.

-- If you're going to become a teacher, choose a subject in which the student's work can easily be graded. Thanks to electronic devices, multiple choice quizzes, math problems and a variety of student work can be scanned for correct answers. If nothing else, a teacher can have an assistant help check the answers. If you teach journalism, pretty much every assignment is an essay. The teacher must read, comprehend, analyze content, check grammar and punctuation ... it takes time, people!

But enough with the sob stories. I love what I do, and I must admit that what I both teach and do as a second job require discipline on deadline. Although it's hectic at times, I thrive on the adrenaline rush.

That said, another factor comes into play in order to avoid procrastination and frustration -- something called balance.

In short, it's important not to take on more than you can handle. And if you must, do what I'm always telling my students to do when writing news stories -- prioritize. Accomplish the most important things each day and leave the rest for another time.

And here, I think, is the real key: Deciding what the most important things really are. Living out here where there's a bit more room to breathe, I'm starting to figure that out. This is why, even though I'm still behind in grading papers, I am content to take time out to play with the grandkids, or drive the countryside, or just sit outside and enjoy the view.

Yes, I'm a procrastinator, but I'm OK with that as long as I'm delaying one thing for something that's more beneficial at the moment. But if I take two weeks between columns again, someone poke me with a stick. There are limits to everything.


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