Deadlines Create Focus

I got up at 5:45 this morning to write this, and I have about an hour to get it done. After that, it will be time to get ready for work and head to the office.

I could have chosen to do this a different way. I could draft the post now, then come back at lunch and polish it before I publish. I could write in the evenings, when I don’t have the constraint of needing to start work to motivate me. I could write on the weekends, when I have fewer time constraints. Or I could wait for inspiration to strike, then spend hours banging out one post after another. Or I could just not do it at all, because I can’t ever make it good enough to draw people’s attention away from Clash of Clans or whatever online game they’re playing this week.

Except drafting now and polishing later makes it way too easy to keep putting it off, keep rewriting in search of a standard I can’t meet. This approach gives me the option to hold it aside for one more revision instead of hitting publish.

Except I tend to be brain-dead in the evenings, and I like to spend time with my family.

Except most of my weekends tend to be almost as full as my weekdays, so finding big blocks of free time there isn’t likely.

Except inspiration is fickle, unlikely to strike if I’m not already in the habit of working–and if it does, I still have to find the time to write whatever it gives me.

Except I’ve tried not doing it. The truth is, I like myself more when I’m creating, even if it’s not good enough to draw people away from Clash of Clans.

My brain and heart need me to do this, and my time to do it is limited. So I have to choose a time and stick to it. I have to make the time I have enough.

It’s a little counter-intuitive: we tend to think we need time and space to create, but constraints are often just the thing our brains need to organize our thoughts so our brilliance can shine through.

That’s where deadlines help.

Creating is hard. We have to focus our attention to make something exist that didn’t before we started. And in our ADHD culture, time and focus are in short supply.

Time constraints help create focus.

When you tell yourself I will send this to my friend this weekend, it galvanizes your attention to getting it done. You discover you can no longer tell yourself just one more edit, just one more polish. Because those take time, and you don’t have it. You have to abandon perfection in favor of good enough, and you have to ship. You have to get it out there.

Your friend, if they’re really a friend, will find some things they’d like you to change. You’ll already know about some of them, and some will be new. You’ll have to choose which ones to fix–because you’ve already set a deadline to take the next step by next month, or by the end of June, or by the end of the year, and you may not be able to get to all of them. But your imperfect creation will make more difference shared with the world than hidden under a sheet in your workshop.

Deadlines help you focus on what’s important. If you want to be serious about your work, I recommend them.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.