Friday, 28 August 2015

What can go wrong, will go wrong

As a management lecturer and consultant, I feel it is critical to (a) build a detailed work plan, and to (b) then start work early. I did that during my Master's research, in order to fit in my study around my commitments. As I am about to embark on my PhD, that too will need careful planning so that nothing slips... and I hope to get well ahead of my deadlines.

I do this because I can guarantee that stuff will go wrong - to paraphrase Edward Murphy, what "can go wrong, will go wrong" (Heinlein, 1980, p. 444, after Murphy’s Third Law, 1949). If I am ahead, there will be more room for me to manoeuvre. Being planned and organised gives me more choices when the excrement hits the fan... and I should walk my talk with my students.

A colleague of mine, Christopher Sheldon, made some VERY useful comments on a UoA/FutureLearn MOOC on Academic Integrity that we attended recently. Christopher said "Procrastination is the biggest problem I find. It plays all sorts of problems with prioritising your work, even if you are motivated and organised.

"When I was a full time journalist, I noticed that many of my colleagues left starting their articles until the very last possible moment - I gradually worked out that they did this because they were afraid of not being able to do a good job with their writing, even though they were professionals. They had to wait until the fear of missing the deadline outweighed the fear of doing a poor job, but by that time, any words strung together in a sentence was better than nothing.

"Over time, they began to fool themselves into thinking that they could only produce their 'best work' this way. I watched the agonies they went through every time they had to produce something (although often on the surface they seemed confident enough, which is why it took me so long to see the nature of their problem). When I eventually worked out what was going on and that I was developing similar habits, I had to pull myself up and develop a different way of thinking.

"Now, as a marker, the less I want to do something, the earlier I get down to it."

Wise words!