Recently, I wrote a post, “Are You a Tortoise or a Hare About Work?”
It was about the question of whether you’d prefer to work fewer hours over more days or more hours over fewer days.
I’ve been thinking more about this distinction. First point: I’m re-naming these categories “marathoners and sprinters.”
A larger point: one reason that I’m a marathoner is that I really dislike deadlines. I really, really, really don’t like to have work hanging over me. For instance, when I was in law school, I had two major writing requirements to fulfill by the end of my third year, and I completed them both by the end of my first year. (Side note: perhaps my eagerness to write big papers could have been perceived as a sign that I would rather be a writer than a lawyer, but that’s another story.) I know I could never be a journalist, because I wouldn’t be able to take the deadlines.
Having a big deadline at the end of a very long period—as with a book—is fine, because it gives marathon-me plenty of time. I like to do a little work over a long period of time, with a lot of opportunity to reflect and research and refine and ample margin in case some emergency prevents me from working.
However, I know that many people need deadlines to work. Sprinters, am I right in assuming that deadlines are important to your process? Is it too much of a stretch to call you deadline-dependent—that is, you won’t start your sprint until the deadline looms?
Also, it seems to me that there’s a difference between sprinters and procrastinators. Agree? Disagree?
From my observation, sprinters deliberately wait for the pressure of a deadline to help clarify their thinking. For instance, a friend told me, “I never prepare a talk until right before I have to give it. I mean, people are in their seats, and I’m standing waiting to go out to a podium. It drives my staff crazy, but that’s when I get all my ideas.” Another friend has a book to write, but she won’t start until a few months before it’s due. She likes to sprint, and she knows how long it will take her to write the book, so she doesn’t want to start until she’ll feel the deadline pressure.
This approach seems different from procrastination. With procrastination, people feel as though they should be working, and they wish they could work, but somehow they can’t make themselves. They aren’t choosing to hold back; they can’t force themselves forward until the deadline is so urgent that they must act. How do procrastinators feel about the marathoners and sprinters? Many procrastinators seem to wish they could be marathoners, but maybe that’s not a good fit for their natures.
I’ve just started to consider these distinctions, however. What do you think? Marathoners, sprinters, procrastinators, or any combinations of the three, please weigh in.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
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