I used to be the type of guy that would wash around, go with the flow and always look for the easy road. It served me well in terms of being relaxed and enjoying my life but it didn’t really help me when I would have to finish something. I used to think that deadlines were the stuff of Nazis.
When writing, you can either put yourself under pressure or not. This doesn’t mean that you have to make yourself stressed because, after all, that’s just your response to the pressure. No, what I mean by pressure is a DEADLINE. You have to focus yourself to completing a task by a certain time so that you can move on and bring the initial task to a close. This actually eliminates stress and provides a much more improved sense of well-being.
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
If you give yourself a week to complete a chapter then your effort will be backloaded into the last few days. If you give yourself a year then it’s even worse. It doesn’t matter what you do you always seem to cram your effort into the last few moments. This is why self-imposed deadlines are so important.
Breaking the project down into manageable chunks is a good motivational idea regardless of deadlines, but when you apply a deadline to each part you increase productivity because you use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage.
What you’re doing is reducing the time available for it’s completion therefore not allowing as much scope for the work to expand. However, there is a warning in doing this. The Law of Diminishing Returns states that, “in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns.” In other words if you keep reducing the time available then it will result in you not producing anything because it will be unrealistic.
“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”
You can set a deadline based on a realistic estimate of how long a certain piece of work will take but inevitably it will always take longer than this. The more you practice setting deadlines the more you can minimise this effect because you are more aware of what’s possible. But it will always occur at some level and if you’re one of those that beats yourself up regularly for failing, then this will only help to reinforce that feeling.
Deadlines, by forcing the writer to knuckle down, help oil the wheels of creativity and push them to completion. Mostly these will be self-imposed, internal deadlines for writers, and this is why it’s important to take them seriously, treat them as if you’re life depended upon them because it does.
One more nugget of wisdom to bear in mind from The Cult of Done Manifesto, “Finishing something increases forward motion more than starting it.”
So, how do you find deadlines; too inflexible or motivating?