Mar 26, 2012

In Praise of Deadlines

Today, in just 14 hours, I have started and submitted 2 grant proposals, conducted a 5-hour Grants Research package then presented it to the fundraising committee, go the kids fed and bathed and to school by 8:30, finished off the basement bedroom for our Woofer volunteer arriving at 6:10, and had my first Getting Old Enough to Need A Physical drivers' license exam.

Deadlines were so tight I didn't even have time to think about whether or not I could make them. Just did them, one at a time until they were done. Work that would have taken me a full day each, with a few other procrastination and worrying days thrown in, just all got done because of deadlines.

Tomorrow I really need to finish an application for non-profit status that I promised a client 2 weeks ago. Problem has been that there's no deadline for submission. Instead I've spent 2 weeks worrying about their perception, about letting them down, about when I would possibly carve out the paltry 3 hours I need to do that first draft. I've wasted more energy in procrastination than it would have taken me to do it.

I need to impose some false deadline that is just believable enough that it'll motivate me like today without stressing me. Maybe a reward deadline - no peanut butter until it's done tomorrow morning. Or maybe just a hard rule of "no more than 3 weeks from the signing of the contract." But wouldn't it be nice if I didn't have to play these self-deception mind games, or rely on some external force to set deadlines, and just worked hard at one thing when it was first presented and got it done?

My first day in grad school we were told 2 things. First, that worker satisfaction does not correlate with productivity (my first clue that I was in the wrong program.) The second was that the only real reason we were in grad school was for creative tension. We could read all the same stuff on our own without paying thousands of dollars, but we wouldn't unless the professor told us to, and set a test date to do it by. We were paying thousands of dollars to have someone give us a deadline.

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