Why Last-Minute Activities Work Best

My last-minute Halloween costume: a B-Logger

A buddy of mine says, “If you wait ’til the last minute, it will only take a minute.”

I always thought this was a cute, pithy phrase. Last night I discovered its value.

We were taking Daughter trick-or-treating with her cousin at 6 PM. At 4 PM Husband and I decided to dress up for Halloween. They were simple costumes. Concocted from things around the house. Completely free. And very effective.

We waited until the last minute. And it only took a minute.

Fact: too much time to plan is detrimental to a project.

Two things can happen if you have too much time:

1) You forget about the project. If your deadline for a one-month project is in 15 months, it is logical to postpone the project for 14 months. Over those 14 months, though, you take on and conquer many other challenges. After 14 months, you’ve completely forgotten about the project.

2) You spend all your time working on it. Consider the same one-month project, due in 15 months. If it’s an enjoyable project, or an important project, you are likely to start now. This is the perfect situation to get you into analysis paralysis. You might also get burned out on the project. In 12 months, you’ll be annoyed, burned out, and angry with it.

If this is a personal project, you spent many man-hours on it that you could’ve spent on other things. If this is a business project, you might’ve lost valuable profit margin because you’ve spent much more time than budgeted.

Me In Time
Image by Vincent van der Pas via Flickr

Myth: too little time to plan is detrimental to a project.

If your deadline for a one-month project is in two weeks, you will consider trashing the project. In reality, if you properly manage the next two weeks, you can get your one-month project done. Complete immersion is the key.

Take on the project with a dedication and fervor exceeding what you normally have. As Milo McLaughlin writes, if you want to get to the finish line quicker, “pick up your tortoise, and run with it.” Ignore everything else (except the bare essentials, of course) and git’r done!

I saw this in action last week. A friend of mine had forgotten about a project because the deadline was too far out. She enlisted some help at work and completed the project in record time.


You might be able to simulate or schedule last minute preparation to be most efficient. Allow yourself to “forget about the project” by planning appropriate last-minute time for it. This will allow you to immerse yourself for the right amount of time. You will spend less time planning, and more time doing.

Did I miss anything? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

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6 Responses to Why Last-Minute Activities Work Best
  1. MaryFran Devine
    November 1, 2010 | 7:52 am

    I enjoyed the costume. But, did you really carry an ax and my GD at the same time!!!

    • Idearella
      November 2, 2010 | 4:21 am

      Husband put a prophylactic device on the end of the axe. It is a special blade cover that looks like a small tube slit long ways. Your granddaughter was perfectly safe.

  2. Milo
    November 2, 2010 | 1:51 am

    Hi Bon, nice costume, reminds me of the Monty Python Lumberjack Song!

    Thanks very much for linking to my Tortoise post. I definitely react better to tight deadlines myself, as I seem to have an innate sense of when I can get away with procrastinating as opposed to when I need to panic slightly and get it done!

    • Idearella
      November 2, 2010 | 4:22 am

      Thanks, Milo. I read that that type of “slight panic” is called eu-stress. It is the opposite of distress, and is good for us.

  3. Lynda
    November 2, 2010 | 2:19 am

    That costume! You are one crazy lady! I love how you push that envelope girl!

    • Idearella
      November 2, 2010 | 4:24 am

      Thanks, Lynda. It was a lot of fun!

      Isn’t it interesting how we push the envelope, and think outside the box? I think I’m going to start pushing the box and thinking outside the envelope. I wonder what that feels like.

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