Controlling Overwhelming Inspiration

Need to finish up that half finished project that’s been sitting on your desk for 3 weeks, or finish  building that shelf in your garage your wife keeps yelling at you about? Make yourself an ultimatum; create a deadline for the project or else.

Any one who knows me well would laugh in my face if I told them I was writing a post on the importance of scheduling a deadline. I can’t make a schedule to save my life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the importance of it. Leigh Jasheway-Bryant over at WritersDigest.com sums it up pretty nicely.

“Too much time often exacerbates confusion and indecisiveness, especially when you’re faced with too many ideas. I’ve taught five-minute writing exercises in my classes for years and found they produce highly creative writing. Bete has similar advice: ‘Reduce the amount of time you have to write because less time means less wasted time on unproductive ideas.'” – Leigh Jasheway-Bryant, ‘9 Ways to Overcome Too Many Ideas Syndrome’

For those of us with inspiration overload, deadlines work even better. People who have trouble coming up with ideas for a project hate the deadline because they may need more time to come up with something, where as people who have too many ideas hate deadlines because we can’t choose which one we want to do or think will work, but that is also our hidden strong point. When are backs are against the wall and we have a deadline approaching, we can quickly drop all of the sub-par and outlandish ideas we have and quickly go with the one that works.

Parkinson’s Law

Another way to look at it is through Parkinson’s Law which states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” I didn’t get it at first either, it’s okay. Chris Campbell of ParticleTree explains:

“Basically, when you have a task at hand you will create enough work to fill up the amount of time that is allotted to that task. If you have too much time, you’ll somehow find more work to fill that time, whether it be through additional features or just plain procrastination.” – Chris Cambell, ‘The Importance of Deadlines’

Think of it this way, if you have a project to complete but no time limit on it, the work required to finish that project expands to an indefinite amount. Once you put a deadline on said project, however, the work required to finish it expands only to that time allotted. The closer to the deadline you get the less procrastination you will have and, in the case of over inspirations, the less time you’ll spend decided which ideas you should go with.

How?

So you’ve decided to set a deadline for yourself, but how do you set a realistic goal? Well that’s where you have to do some subjective thinking. Greekpreneur.com makes a good point here: first of all, how big or work intensive is your project? And secondly, what kind of worker are you, honestly? Give yourself the time you need, but not necessarily the time you want. Remember the goal here is to actually get the job done and to not procrastinate. If you give your self too much time, the work you need to do won’t fill up all that allotted space and it will be filled with more procrastination, according to Mr. Parkinson, but giving yourself too little time will just prove to be more stressful than not and you may miss your deadline. So you have to be very honest with yourself and choose what’s best for you and your project.

If the deadlines you are setting for yourself are for more than just your personal projects and you are a bit more worried of the implications of failure, you might want to turn your deadlines into what Sabrina from Greekpreneur.com calls “soft limits.”

“At those times it would be great if the deadline wasn’t actually a deadline at all but something more like a soft limit, a recommended time by which to return the work if at all possible. A kind of “best offer” that the client would accept on a “more-or-less” basis.” –Sabrina, ‘Turn Hard Deadlines into Soft Limits’

A soft limit consists of three steps. First and foremost, let the other party involved know that you’re creating a less the solid deadline right off the bat, or as soon as possible. This is to ensure that everyone is on the same page and no misunderstandings could come about later. Secondly, create your personal deadline earlier than the soft limit. Sabrina suggests 10% earlier, but depending on the project and time constraints this could change. And lastly, deliver your work as you go. ‘Turn in’ completed portions of the work prior to the actual deadline. This gives you a reason to work more early on in the process while also softening the end crunch time.

Anything else?

Now go do it! Personally, this is the step that has been stopping me on my own projects. Getting over the sea of distractions and climbing the mountain of effort is always the toughest part, but only the first few steps. As long as you have the creativity to fuel you, every other step just becomes progressively easier.

Works Cited and References:

1. Jasheway-Bryant, L. A. (2008, March 13). 9 Ways to Overcome Too Many Ideas Syndrome. Retrieved from 
 http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/ 
 too-many-ideas-syndrome 

2. Sabrina. (2011, October 27). Turn Hard Deadlines into Soft Limits. Retrieved from 
 http://www.geekpreneur.com/turn-hard-deadlines-into-soft-limits 

3. Sabrina. (2011, October 27). Turn Hard Deadlines into Soft Limits. Retrieved from 
 http://www.geekpreneur.com/turn-hard-deadlines-into-soft-limits 

4. Dolon, M. (n.d.). How to Set Deadlines and Keep Them. Retrieved from http://devgrow.com/ 
 how-to-set-deadlines-and-keep-them/ 

5. Perel, D. (2008, December 9). 10 Benefits of Setting Deadlines . Retrieved from
 http://www.from-the-couch.com/post.cfm/title/10-benefits-of-setting-deadlines
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