The Unofficial Harvard Kennedy School Mid-Career Class of 2013 Guide to Procrastination During Finals Week

Through the wonderfully random phenomenon of crowdsourcing, this is the list of what people do when they are faced with the looming prospect of final exams and term paper deadlines. Proudly presenting, (drum roll), in fully random order, the list of things that my classmates wouldn’t normally do, but did on the weekend before their final exams and/or their paper is due, just so they could procrastinate on working on them. (More shocking fact: these people are in their graduating semester).

  1. Set up a Facebook post on the class page to ask in what ways classmates are procrastinating.
  2. Practice run on the Charles River.
  3. Clean iPhone (not sure if physical or digital).
  4. Download all pictures and videos from iPhone to make room for new pictures and videos (I presume this is for the coming final project in iPhone photography and videography).
  5. Label and categorize all downloaded iPhone pictures and video (for the final project on categorizing iPhone photos and videos)
  6. Throw birthday party for daughter, whose birthday was 2 months later (lucky daughter)
  7. Research and order brake parts for truck for the brake job the following month.
  8. Order plane tickets for the trip planned for 4 months later.
  9. Think hard about what to write for the Facebook post on procrastination (see 1.)
  10. Laugh at kids trying to break a piñata. For 1 hour. (what kind of a piñata is that that needs an hour to break open??)
  11. Bet on which kid would be the one to break the piñata.
  12. Go on a mini-tour of the legendary Harvard Widener Library (I hope he happened to be studying there and did not go there just to do that mini-tour.
  13. Google research Quaker forms of worship. (background: the dude walks past the Quaker building to school every day and decided to finally research the subject that finals weekend)
  14. File the 974 mails in the inbox.
  15. Reorganize the freezer.
  16. Take son out to dinner for his (the son’s, that is) straight As.
  17. Wedding anniversary brunch.
  18. Watch son’s baseball game.
  19. Practice twerking.
  20. Dance Bollywood and Bhangra.
  21. Research vacation rentals for the trip the next day (but haven’t started on the 12-page paper!)
  22. Reading the Facebook post on the class page (see 1.), which has grown to become rather sizeable.
  23. Help neighbour wash the dog (my personal favorite).
  24. Checking Wikipedia to see what twerking means (see 19.)
  25. Play field hockey.
  26. Attend the Harvard Graduate Commons event-for the very first time.
  27. Sleep two hours on the JFK Forum couch.
  28. Gather fellow procrastinators to watch the biggest derby of the Argentine football season.
  29. Posting random music videos on the Facebook post (see 1.)
  30. Respond to a fellow procrastinator getting people to watch the Argentine derby (see 28.).
  31. Seek comfort from fellow procrastinators by reading the Facebook post (see 1.).
  32. Drive around Boston aimlessly following Siri’s directions to non-existent places.
  33. Going through folders in the computer arranging “Show View Options” to prioritize “Arrange By: Kind” and “Sort By: Name”.
  34. Hang out with the most incredible Cuban artist at the South End artist market.
  35. Get a pedicure.
  36. Eat through an entire box of Annie’s (organic) Traditional Party Mix.
  37. Eat through a box of Kix (probably inspired by 36.).
  38. Playing with Thursday’s exam material when there is a paper due on Tuesday.
  39. Attend a rock show.
  40. Polish all shoes.
  41. Plan for the summer.
  42. Watch half of Mad Men Season 4.
  43. Visit Ben & Jerry factory in Vermont.
  44. 2 days in Brazil to meet former President, 2 days in Chicago to celebrate fiance’s birthday.
  45. Game of Thrones marathon.
  46. Read all 68 previous comments on the Facebook post (see 1.).
  47. Watch Gossip Girl.
  48. Call the entire family.
  49. Laundry.
  50. Watch all bloopers of Big Bang Theory on Youtube.

And I think this was half the entire list. I’m afraid that if I actually typed out the entire list, which threatens to approach 100, people might have serious doubts about the way I utilise my time. Besides, 50 is a long-enough list to impress people to think that my classmates are such geniuses that they could do all that in the list and graduate.

I’m gonna miss my classmates. Thanks for the material, my friends.

Heifetz (Lefty) & Linsky (Unknown, so probably not) on Surviving the Dangers of Leadership


Here at the halfway point of the Heifetz Leadership class, a summary of the key points lifted from part of this excellent book.  I pray all in the class will reflect well and be fine over this weekend.  I pray the Lord bless my classmates with great, life-changing insights from the rest of this class, so we can go out there and change the world, each a little bit.  I also pray we enhance the capacity to return the burdens to our ancestors, and not pass on any to our descendants.

The Challenge

Leadership is dangerous because in adaptive situations, people look to their leaders for answers when the answers actually lie with themselves. The initial challenge, and risk, of leadership is to go beyond your authority—to put your credibility and position on the line in order to get people to tackle the problems at hand.  There must be a willingness to challenge people’s expectations of you.  Resistance from the people comes from the prospect of loss—of values, habits, attitudes, etc.

Four forms of danger face the leader:

  • Marginalization – “carrying” a specific issue, colluding with the marginalizers, personalization.
  • Diversion – moving or diluting the leader’s focus, getting swamped by work.
  • Attack – physical attack, character attack, misrepresentation, as a result turning the subject of conversation away from the real issue.
  •  Seduction – causing the leader to lose his sense of purpose, e.g. desire for the approval of one’s own faction, leading to one “carrying” a specific issue (see Marginalization)

Responding to Danger

Get off the dance floor and get on the balcony.  Distance yourself from the fray to get a clearer view and the bigger picture.  To get beyond your own blind spots, use these diagnostics:

  • Distinguish technical from adaptive challenges
    • When people’s hearts and minds need to change
    • Problem persist despite technical fixes
    • Conflict persists
    • Occurrence of crises
  • Find out where people are at – learn people’s perspectives.
  • Listen to the song beneath the words – interpret people’s words correctly, get the intentions behind the words. Don’t just process the literal message.
  •  Read the behavior of the authority figure for clues. The authority reacts to all factions in the organization.  Assess where he stands on the issues you have raised. A cooling attitude reflects the resistance of the organization to your initiative.

Think Politically, invest in personal relationships.

  • Find Partners—people inside and outside the organization who share your goals.
  • Keep the Opposition Close—work with your opponents, not just your supporters.
  • Accept Responsibility for Your Piece of the Mess.  You may be the one who needs to change.
  • Acknowledge the People’s Loss.  When you ask people to change, you are asking that they give up something precious.
  • Model the behavior.  Lead by example.
  • Accept Casualties.  If people cannot adapt, they will be left behind. Accepting casualties signals the leader’s commitment

Orchestrate the Conflict.  The challenge is to work with differences, passions and conflicts in a way that constructively harnesses their energy.  Ideas to orchestrate the conflict:

  • Create holding environment—to contain and adjust the heat generated by addressing difficult issues
  • Control the temperature—raise the heat enough that people take action, and lower the temperature to reduce a counterproductive level of tension
  • Pace the work—people can only stand so much change at any one time
  • Show them the future—remind people of the positive vision that makes the current angst worthwhile

Give the Work Back.  When one takes on the issue, one becomes the issue.

  • Take the work off your shoulders and challenge your people’s expectations of you.
  • Place the work where it belongs, because the relevant parties need to resolve the issues in order to have lasting progress.
  • Make your interventions short and simple, by making observations, asking questions, offering interpretations and taking tangible actions

Hold Steady and maintain your poise so you can plan future actions.

  • Take the heat and receive others’ anger in a way that does not undermine your initiative.
  • Let the issues ripen.  Hold off before addressing the issue, or ripen the issue so it can be addressed earlier.
  • Focus on the real issue the attentions of those who need to change.