Return to Time Management

The Pleasure-Pain PrincipleThe Now HabitBeing in control of your timeMindfulness

The Pleasure-Pain Principle

Procrastination can cause pleasure in the short term but pain in the long term. It’s up to you to decide which of these is more important!

Task: Study for Chemistry midterm that is one week from today, including readings, labs, and lecture information.

Pleasure I will have from putting off my studying until later: Pain I will have from putting off my studying until later:
  • Fun spending time with friends.
  • Catch up on emailing, Facebook, etc.
  • Won’t have to think hard right now when I’m not in the mood.
  • I’ll be more motivated later when I feel “the crunch.”
  • I’ll feel guilty that I’m not doing the work.
  • In the back of my mind I’ll still worry about the studying I have to do.
  • Pulling an all-nighter to study the day before.
  • Grade might be lower, and will affect my final mark in the course.


Ask yourself:

Does one outweigh the other?


The “NOW” Habit

Neil Fiore’s “The NOW Habit” distinguishes two types of people: Procrastinators and Producers.


  • get overwhelmed;
  • feel pressured;
  • fear failure or success;
  • try harder;
  • work longer;
  • feel resentful;
  • lose motivation;
  • focus on what they “should” be doing; and
  • feel like they have little or no control of their circumstances. Then… they procrastinate!


People who are producers employ the NOW habit, which involves:

  • putting aside fears (failure, success, feeling overwhelmed, low self-esteem);
  • enjoying guilt-free play;
  • feeling in control of your life (You are the producer of your own narrative!); and
  • focusing on what you can start NOW.

The influence of self-talk

Negative self-talk contributes to procrastination. Here are five examples of statements that distinguish procrastinators from producers.

Procrastinators say… Producers say…
I have to. I choose to.
I must finish. When can I start?
This project is so big and important. I can take one small step.
I must be perfect. I can be perfectly human.
I don’t have time to play. I must make time to play.


Source: Fiore, N. (2007). The NOW habit: A strategic program for overcoming procrastination and enjoying guilt-free play. 2nd edition. Toronto: Penguin Group.

Being in control of your time

*indicates primary interest to graduate students


List all of the challenges/stressors you are presently experiencing that pertain to time and time management. Include both professional and personal challenges. You might wish to rank order them from most to least challenging/stressful.

Internal & External Controls

 Internal and external controls flowchart


  1. Choose one of your challenges. Using the model above, enumerate which aspects of the challenge are under your control and which are externally controlled.
  2. From there, prepare a plan of action: attain and maintain what you do control; plan for managing those elements over which you have less control.
  3. For aspects of stressors over which you have no control but still must face, acceptance of your situation will help to relieve stress. See Learning to Accept What We Can’t Change for ideas on how to practice acceptance.

Learning to accept what we can’t change

*indicates primary interest to graduate students

As we noted above in “Being in control of your time,” there are some stressors over which you have no control. Acceptance of your situation will help to relieve stress. The following are some ways to help you learn to accept what you cannot change.


Mindfulness is awareness, without judgement, of life as it is, of you as you are, of others as they are. It is a condition of “being” present rather than “doing.” How to practice being mindful?

Mindfulness is a learned skill that develops with practice.

  • Sit with your eyes closed in a quiet, safe place.
  • Begin with some slow, deep breaths to calm the mind and body.
  • Pay attention to the moment (rather than the past or future)
  • You may wish to focus on something like the breath, the soundscape, your body, an object, a mantra or simply watch, from a detached, non-judgemental point of view, any thoughts, feelings, moods, or sensations that arise.

Resource: Dr. John Kabat-Zinn’s wonderful book Full Catastrophe Living lays out his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program.


  • Trying to control a problem can result in the problem controlling you.
  • Reach for help when it is too big to handle yourself. Queen’s Counselling Services provides free, confidential counselling.
  • Surrender to a higher power, whatever that means to you.

Love your problems

  • Accept the problem by telling yourself the truth about it. Describe it in detail.
  • Unconditionally accept the problem. This is not giving into the problem, or giving up, but is a way to be with the problem and get to know it. Rather than denying the problem exists or struggling against it, “loving the problem” frees you by draining its power over you.

Celebrate mistakes

  • Deal with fear of making mistakes by celebrating them. Get them out in the open. Examine them. Hiding them takes a lot of energy.
  • Mistakes teach you more than successes do. Mistakes are how we learn.
  • Mistakes involve risk-taking which means you’re stretching the limits of your ability and growing.
  • Celebrating allows you to focus on correcting the problem.
  • You’re not alone. Everyone makes mistakes.