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To be on time
My problem is that I am chronically late. Not necessarily for social meetings (though that happens too), but  in a more general manner in life. I always find myself missing by a little all sorts of closing dates for projects I’d like to submit. Or I think of something  and find out that other colleagues have made this move 2 months ago. Anybody had this problem and found a way to solve it? A way to look into the future and be able to foresee when is it time to act?

Try thinking about your life more like running a business. The folks I know in business have strategy meetings every month to set goals and focus meetings at the beginning of every week to chart how they are progressing in meeting those goals. Not to mention annual reviews. IFind a mentor or colleague who is very motivated and agree to sit down together yearly and monthly to chart your long term goals for your situation (whether it is getting in shape, starting a business or getting a degree). You can make time yourself for the weekly meetings: spend an hour every Monday, go out and get yourself a coffee and think about what you need to get done this week in order to advance your project. Like this you will not only stay on top of things like deadlines, you will also proactively think of other interesting things to do that you might not otherwise have done.

A big mistake is to assume that people who are successful are just that way by accident. Successful people work very hard and are constantly focused on achieving their goals. 
Thinking about life in terms of a business is a costly proposition (no pun intended). I think that life loses a lot of its meaning once you view it this way. I prefer simple techniques that can make a big difference at relatively little cost. For example, get a good electronic calendar (e.g. Google or Outlook). Or set your watch a few minutes early. Or just give yourself one in a while an opportunity (say, at the Nth of each month...) to reflect broadly about the issues that may be pertinent and which we may have forgotten along the way.
There was a famous scientist, Hamming I think, who had a habit of designating Friday afternoons as "big idea time". (He may have had a better word for it.) Like the name says, on Fridays after some fixed time he would only think about big ideas. What were the major problems to be solved, what strategies could one invent for solving them even if outlandish, etc etc. After some intense speculation he would return to his regularly scheduled work. In his memoirs somewhere he credits this tradition with pushing him to stay at the forefront of his field for many years, and to think about a wide range of problems which he otherwise would not have looked for.

As the previous posts point out, a certain interplay between high- and low-level work is crucial to really make the most of what you are doing. Without detail work and focus on your projects you get nothing done, but without specific time set aside for long-term planning and speculation you very rarely see the forest for the trees. 
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Latest Post: April 10, 2010 at 8:43 AM
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