Done With Deadlines

Time is our enemy. It is a relentless beast that can never be stalled, that never retreats, but will continually march forward at an even pace, dragging us all (the universe included) to an inevitable death. Yikes.

There’s an argument out there that actively managing our concept of time allows us to more effectively measure out our productivity throughout any given day. This is true, for sure. However, another argument would be that humans are the only animal that so wholly depends on the clock, on the ticking-by of each individual second. And yet another argument might be that the invention of timekeeping could be considered a contributing factor to all of human misery.

Of course, other creatures rely on time, on the changing of seasons and the position of the sun or moon, but they are certainly not so hyper-focused on the arbitrary numbers assigned by calendars that cannot quite accurately capture the passage of the planet around our star.

So why do we do it? Well, because we have to. Unfortunately. Society only functions as well as it can be organized and uniform organization is really only possible with standardized timekeeping. Fine, whatever.

Look, this isn’t a post about work. If you have a job, be it on company time or your own as a freelancer, then yes, you shall be a slave to a deadline, possibly several throughout the day. Until we can successfully master some form of time manipulation (which in turn would undoubtedly serve up many multitudes of troubles), then the ability to complete work on a set schedule in return for payment is an unavoidable reality.

So let’s focus on what we can control: our personal time. Of course, even having personal time, time that isn’t devoted to survival or caring for family/household, is a great privilege. So if you are lucky enough to find spare time during your week, and you would like to devote this time to a hobby, perhaps to some sort of artistic endeavor, or even to teaching yourself something new, do yourself a favor and don’t place any time constraints on yourself.

It might seem counterintuitive to not maintain the same rigorous discipline in your personal side hustles as you do in your professional life. And maybe this advice is off base, but for me, I’ve found that trying to rigorously demand that I finish something by a certain date or improve myself to a certain degree on some arbitrary timeframe has only served to discourage progress once I stumble even a little. Because, once I’ve missed enough progress that it becomes clear to me that I’ll “never” complete a project by the predetermined deadline, I essentially leave the whole affair for dead and fall into a depressed sort of malaise over my lack of self-improvement.

For me, I’m starting to believe that I need to spend less time thinking: “I need to accomplish X by year 20XX”, and then subsequently getting frustrated and quitting when it appears unlikely to come to fruition. Instead of focusing on these long term plans and trying to tie them to some future completion date that has no bearing on anything, I should perhaps focus on consistently chipping away at the things I want to do on a day-to-day basis. I’ve touched on this before, on how sticking with something even if it does not come to you naturally or right away is key to succeeding in any process.

Sometimes, difficulty isn’t necessarily the only barrier to success. Sometimes it is Time itself, that old bastard, that tricks us into believing that perhaps we are too old or too young to pursue something. We foolishly are led to think that, maybe, because it’s already taken so many years to complete a project that it will never be finished. We place deadlines on ourselves thinking that we don’t deserve enough time, that only a job done quickly is a job worth doing. And that, of course, is bullshit.

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