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Do you ever feel pressed for time?

Students made room in their packed schedules for a Time Management and Personal Leadership Workshop on February 25, hosted by the Office of Academic Resources.

In response to frequent requests for help with time management, the OAR brought in Steve McClatchy, founder of Alleer Training and Consulting.  McClatchy has worked with high-profile clients, including Microsoft, Disney and numerous professional sports leagues. OAR assistant director Lionel Anderson heard him speak while working as an academic advisor at the Fox School of Business.

“As so many Haverford students, and college students everywhere, grapple with time management, his talk seemed like a no-brainer to me,” said Anderson. “I was particularly drawn to his delineation of Gain/Prevent Pain thinking as well as his approach to prioritization: not ascribing importance to tasks based on deadlines, but, rather, on results.”

Photo courtesy of the OAR. Click photo to browse other pictures from the event.
Photo courtesy of the OAR. Click photo to browse other pictures from the event.

McClatchy attributed poor time management mainly to a habit of misprioritizing tasks. There are two reasons for every decision we make. Decisions, he said, are of two types: those made to “move toward gain” and those made to “prevent pain.” The latter type consists of chores and similar activities—going to the bank or preparing meals, for example—which people are often nagged to do and which one can’t avoid doing for too long.  Decisions to move toward gain, on the other hand, are tasks that reach for a new goal, like starting a business or learning a new language.  People are not asked by others to make these decisions, and they are much easier to stall and put off, but they can produce much more significant results than decisions to prevent pain.

A major distinction between the two types of tasks is that tasks that prevent pain can be delegated to someone else while tasks that move toward gain must be done by the person in question. McClatchy stressed the importance of delegating tasks that prevent pain to other people so that one has sufficient time to work on move-toward-gain tasks.

The human brain is wired, however, to prioritize more urgent events over the ones with more potential significance, McClatchy said, and this is what leads to procrastination of the most impactful tasks.  The key to feeling balance in life is to make decisions that move toward gain often enough that one has a frequent feeling of accomplishment and progress.  “Think of the last time you had thought that your life is better today than it was yesterday,” he said.  “Balance is not about time, it is about movement.”

McClatchy’s talk also addressed “the feeling of being burnt out” in college, attributing it to students’ tendency to label too many tasks as musts when attending college in itself is a privilege and not a requirement.  In addition, he warned that excessive procrastination leads to a mind overloaded with last-minute priorities—results in lower-quality work—and encouraged the use of study groups for motivating each other and maintaining accountability. McClatchy also stressed that there is a time and place for procrastination-usually prevent pain tasks. The trick is to use strategic procrastination that adds pressure to work faster on unimportant tasks and work slowly and carefully on tasks that require quality.

For students at the workshop, McClatchy’s speech had an immediate impact.

“That night, when I came back from the workshop, I divided my activities into want-to’s and have-to’s. I’m planning on going to a lot more workshops hosted by the OAR,” said Rachard Kemp ’15.

“Actually, as soon as I finished that workshop, I came back to my dorm, grabbed another guy and said, ‘I want to go sky-diving with you this weekend. I’ve always wanted to do it and I want to check it off my list,’ Conor Brennan-Burke ’16 said.  “We’re college students; we get burnt out, and it’s a lot of work. If you’re not having a good time, then it there is no real meaning to what you’re doing anymore.”

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