October 10, 2008

Are you addicted to the adrenaline rush of the last minute?

The trouble is my husband. He is chronically late and does everything at the last possible minute.

Our company works primarily on grants for the government. The proposals (25 pages each!!) are due regularly, every 3 or 4 months. He consistently is up all night the night before they're due finishing the proposal(s).

This habit of his has actually COST us hundreds of thousands of dollars. None of this is news to him. I don't have to tell you that that's a ridiculously huge amount of money - especially for a small business!

Just this morning at 6 am, the most recent round of proposals was due. We talked about it last time, with another one of the owners, and agreed that he would have the proposals complete and turned in to me by 6 am Tuesday, so that I would have time to proofread them and make sure they were uploaded correctly. Well, he did pretty well on the first one, I had it by noon Tuesday. The second one, though, he was up until 6 am (AGAIN!) finishing.

Aside from the obvious financial and health implications for him, this also has a negative effect on our family. As you can imagine, he's going to be tired and cranky and out of the normal routine for several days - generally he doesn't get back to normal until after the weekend, so now I'm looking at Wednesday - Monday of having half a husband, essentially. It also negatively impacts my kids. And of course, the 24 hour days he works leading up to the due date aren't great for the family either.

Of course, all these grants come with reporting requirements, too. And of course, the reports are also done at the last minute. It drives me insane. We end up doing this stay up all night/work 24 hours a day/tired and cranky for the better part of a week/etc. thing about once a month, with the proposal cycle and the reports we write. It's an ongoing problem, in the most annoying sense.

I really appreciate how hard he is working to support our family, I do. He's a great husband, but this thing drives me out of my mind. I've bought him books, I've tried ignoring it, I've done everything I can think of to encourage him to be more organized, less of a procrastinator, to set more realistic goals, etc. etc. etc.

So, that's my question - how can I support/encourage/force/bribe/cajole/etc. my husband into NOT being a last minute person?

Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards,
Amy Business Manager & Mom
Photo by flickr365

Here's my answer

Hi Amy

I would ask your husband if he’s addicted to the adrenaline rush of the last-minute? Seriously, some people feel they perform better under pressure (or that’s what they tell themselves anyway) so they get addicted to the rush.

Otherwise, if he’s not, then it may be as simple as a planning issue. If you say that these things are always around 25 pages long, then they probably take on average a certain number of days to complete.

Do you have a checklist of the different steps from start to finish? Make one and add in the times you think it would take to complete each step. Now add in another 30% for buffering (you can always reduce it later if you’ve added in too much; early is always better). And then work back, realistically, allocating a certain number of hours to each day from deadline date backwards.

E.g. If I have a 30-hour project (this is inclusive of buffering) which I generally work on for 6 hours a day, then it’s going to take me 5 days. If deadline is 18th Jan, then I have to start no later than 11th Jan (allowing for weekends off). If he works on this only a couple of hours a day, I would use my eat the frog principle and form.

I would also sit down and calmly explain to your hubby (not when you’re working to deadline – that time is too fraught with emotion, panic, etc) how this makes you and the family feel. He sounds like a good guy and maybe he will get it if you say how this impacts the kids or the tension in the household…

What would your advice be?

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