Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do You Need a Deadline?

Can you guess what I am?

I need deadlines. It's the how I achieve my goals. I may miss a bunch of deadlines. And some of these deadlines may seem rather arbitrary, but I always set deadlines. If I don't have a deadline, then I procrastinate. Sound familiar?

"One of these days I'm going to learn how to do the Rubik's Cube."

When I finally got serious with the Rubik's Cube, I gave myself one week to learn how to solve it. After I realized that a 37 minute solve time wouldn't garner me any admiration from the ladies, I knew I had my next deadline. 36 minutes. Then 35 minutes. And so on.

This forced me to learn new techniques. To look for efficiencies that could save me precious solve time. I found things that I would not have even considered without the next deadline I set for myself. It didn't matter that it was 35 minutes or 35 seconds. It didn't matter if the clock ran out on me first, I was motivated and productive. (Well, as productive as you can be playing with a toy.)

My time on Earth is precious and shall not be squandered.

Time and output are two of the most important things to a writer. You are granted a finite amount of time to write your body of work. If you don’t have time to write, then you obviously won’t produce anything.

How do you make more time?

Well, that won’t happen with our current laws of physics, but we can make the best of the time we have. Setting deadlines helps you focus on what really matters most: becoming a better writer.

Flexible and achievable deadlines keep you motivated to carry on with your writing. You build your confidence. You have little competitions with yourself. This week I’m going to write 15 pages of my novel or story. That’s only 2 pages per day. After all, I wrote 12 pages last week.

Rigid deadlines can be painful, but they help you focus on your objective. For newspaper journalists, they learn to immediately get to the meat of the story. The editor won’t run their piece if there are excessive words to bog down the story.

For other literary folks, a deadline helps us to just finish the draft. We need to focus on the priorities. I’m here to write a story. I’m here to write a blog post. I’m not here to surf the internet or sharpen pencils (yes, they still exist.)

I think deadlines are a good thing. Do you agree? Do they work for you?

Figure out what that image above is? It’s a timer for speedcubing. The clock begins the moment your hands reach for the Rubik’s Cube. Once you solve it, you slam both palms back down on the pads. Keep in mind that other coffee shop patrons will not share your enthusiasm if you use one of these for your writing deadline.


  1. I use 30/30, a concept I first learned of from productivity expert Bart Sayles. The idea is that you use a timer to set 30 minute increments. One can do anything unpleasant or difficult for 30 minutes, and so the idea is that for that 30 minutes we devote our entire attention to that one task. When the timer dings, we stop. That's all. Then we get 30 minutes off to goof around, do whatever we like.

    I've used 30/30 to finish over 20 novels, do laundry, budget, balance my checkbook; it doesn't just have to be "unpleasant" stuff but stuff we procrastinate on. I have found it to be an excellent procrastination-buster because I am really good at setting goals, just not very effective on following through with them. 30/30 upped my follow-through to a much better place and I love it.

    I'm really fascinated by your Rubik's Cube interest. It's become a passion, like I feel about knitting. Very interesting; I look forward to reading more of you! I've also put you on my main blog as a buddy; I'd like to do a similar list for members with ShopNotes in the next month. Stay tuned!

    And above all, keep writing! :)

  2. Nice to see you here! Thanks for chiming in. Wow it sounds like the 30/30 concept is really working for you. I'll have to try it the next time I have to do laundry. Scrubbing my clothes on river rocks for only thirty minutes actually doesn't sound too unpleasant once you think about it. ;-)

  3. I was wondering what that image was, Jason. :)

    To answer your question, YES, I require deadlines. Sometimes, I have to update them when life gets in the way. Still, I try to meet them regardless. Thanks for the kick in the britches this morning. :)

  4. Ha! Full disclosure: I do not own one of those things. I'm probably not a "serious" cuber. Oh well. ;-)

  5. LOL, great way to tie the Rubiks Cube into the trouble of writing vs. deadlines. I personally try to write 10 pages when I sit down. That way, if I have a short chapter, then hell, that's another page out of the way. Some days take longer than others, but in ten days I've got 100 pages.

    When I do sit down to write, I try my hardest to make it count. Now the trouble for me is getting my butt in the seat to begin with . . . two kids'll do that to you.



  6. I hear you, Nick! It's tough when life gets in the way of writing. I'm considering getting an electronic shock collar to encourage daily writing ;-)

  7. I need a deadline to complete anything that I don't love. The only things I manage to do in a timely manner without a deadline are read, write*, eat, and sleep.

    I will hold off on folding clean laundry until I am wearing the last items out of my closet. When you see me walking around in an old high school gym uniform, you'll know why.

    *I'm talking about first drafts, only. It takes a serious deadline to get a revision out of me, that's for sure.

  8. Hi Lori, if you need a deadline for the things you dread, then you've got an advantage for NaNoWriMo. It's perfect. You love to write and there's no way the 50K words will be anything but a first (or zero) draft.

    I think NaNoWriMo is the ultimate deadline and for good reason. It forces to many people to get rid of the 'some day I will...' thoughts.

    Thanks for your insightful comments. Again it's great to have you here :-)