Deadlines can be wonderful things. They can help push you to accomplish more within a specified timespan than what you would find the motivation to do on your own. However, they can also make you feel pressured to put less time into a project than what you would like to give in order to finish it within a decided period. This happened to me during the past week as I participated in GISHWHES. (If you don’t know what GISH is, look it up!)
During the course of the week-long scavenger hunt, I managed to complete 11 items. Some took less effort and time than others. Some required me to scale back my original ideas for completing the tasks due to the time limits I faced during the week. At least one item, a painting, I am planning on revisiting on my own time to redo on a more elaborate scale. Overall, I’m happy with the work I did and hope to make similar progress on my personal projects in the coming weeks.
However, even now I am having difficulty keeping ahold of the forward momentum I enjoyed last week. Now that I no longer have a specific deadline to work toward, I feel free to relax a bit and enjoy things that I cut out of my life during the competition. These things are most certainly distractions that tempt me into procrastination, but at the same time, some of them are activities that many writers find useful, such as reading for pleasure.
Everyone needs to pause from time to time in order to relax and recharge, but finding a balance between pleasure and progress can be difficult for me. Setting personal deadlines can help in some cases, but they can also feel restrictive when I come to parts of a project to which I want to devote more time and attention. In these instances I’m left questioning whether or not I have failed in my goals if I don’t complete the project within my self-imposed deadline. Even if the final product of the work is better than what I would have turned out had I stuck to the deadline, I still have a nagging feeling of failure. (Many of my past teachers and professors would not have accepted late assignments for anything other than illness, so why should I accept them from myself?)
This dilemma relates back once again to setting one’s own priorities and not letting others (even your own inner critic) pressure you into not taking your work seriously. Only you can know what you hope to accomplish with any project you set before yourself. If the work you turn out is unsatisfactory to you, then it is up to you to determine how you need to change your crafting methods in order to accomplish what you have your heart and mind set upon to do. If this means adjusting time management to lengthen personal deadlines or allow for a stronger focus on certain areas of work, then consider that progress rather than a shortcoming. You don’t always know when you need to spend more time on something until after you’ve seen the results of your efforts. Skills are learned through use and practice, and it takes some people longer to develop some skills than it takes others. Don’t be afraid to adjust your time use according to your own skills and needs. Personal deadlines are useful, but they need to work with you, not against you. Don’t cut yourself short.