Sunday, August 10, 2008

How to Act Productive Tip #13: Start Late

A lot of productivity folks like to tout the advantages of starting early. “Get started on your projects early!” they say, citing reasons like reduced stress and better performance. More surprisingly, so many people aspiring to be more organized and more productive also say similar things, “If only I hadn’t started so late!” If only they knew, those poor bastards.

Truly productive people don’t start early, they start late. People that don’t have enough to do start early. Productive people have so many projects on their plate at one point that they simply can’t start early. Starting early is an insult to your own productivity. It’s an open declaration that you have no drive, no motivation, and little promise of achieving anything worthwhile. Clearly, you have nothing better to do than start on something that’s not due for a while. Starting early shows desperation for wanting something to do. It’s the equivalent of calling a girl the next morning after getting her number only the night before. Please.

Beyond avoiding being pathetic, starting late has other upsides. First, the best ideas come under severe time pressure. When it’s 4am and you have to make that big presentation in the morning that you just started on a couple hours ago that you’ll come up with the brilliant ideas that will impress the audience. Second, when a project ends and you tell people you barely started it a few hours ago, you look a lot more impressive than if you told them you’ve been working on it forever. You’ll get responses back that are chock-full of admiration, such as “Wow.” Lastly, starting late leads to other productive-person characteristics. When you start late you often have to skip meals, work through vacations and weekends, get very little sleep, and get from point A to point B at lightning speed. In this way, starting late is in effect a gateway drug of acting productive: it leads to the good stuff. Thus, it can be argued, it’s one of the most important characteristics of a productive person.

So the next time you’re handed a project and you have the urge to get started right away, resist it, sit on it, start late.

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