Radio Hed: Artificial Deadlines

Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

I’ve put off writing this article long enough.

Procrastination: no matter how far into the future a deadline looms, I seem to always wait until the last possible day, hour, minute, second. Even if I try to plan ahead, other projects with more urgency always seem to get in the way until time runs out, then I kick into action and it gets done. In an attempt to preserve my adrenal glands, I’m trying a new approach. I lie to myself.

If I have to catch a plane on Friday morning, I pack as if I have to leave Thursday morning. That way when those inevitable glitches appear – gas for the car, missing batteries, laundered shirt that I forgot, client emergencies… I have 24 hours to take care of them.

Which brings me to creative deadlines. I pretend they’re due weeks or even days before they really are. This sometimes works. I say sometimes, because I know I’m trying to fool myself.

With writing projects, the lie that works best for me is a short-time one. It might work for you. I set a timer for 1, 2, 5, 10 or 15 minutes, telling myself that’s when it’s due.

Then I do the continuous writing exercise. When the alarm goes off, I stop. If I’m on a roll, in the flow, I’ll reset the timer for another segment and keep writing. If I’m stalled, I’ll move on to another project and come back to this one later.

This is a great way to tackle big projects in small bite-sized chunks.

This discrete segment process (I call it the Kitchen Timer Technique because that’s what I use) seems to concentrate my creative juices, and I get more done in a shorter time. For me, it’s another way to break writer’s block. It forces me through, around, over the blocks.

Use whatever timer you have handy: alarm clock, kitchen timer, stopwatch, watch, iPhone, computer, laptop, etc. Heck, you could even have a coworker, or the person sitting next to you on the plane remind you when your time’s up.

So, to summarize: Set a timer. Write. Stop when the alarm sounds. Continue writing if on a roll. Go on to another project if not. Rinse and repeat.

This is so dead simple; you might underestimate its power. Don’t.

© 1997-2010 Hedquist Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

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