Tag Archives: deadline

Deadline Oriented


By Katherine Shaye

In my last post I noted that it is difficult for me to set my own deadlines. A friend of mine read this and remarked teasingly that I shouldn’t tell this to any future employers. This confused me. Yes, it made sense that no employer would want a worker who couldn’t meet deadlines, but I had never had this problem at work.

In fact I’ve been rather good at meeting work or school deadlines. My track record has been clean, showing up on time, turning in assignments, getting things done. I never asked for extensions or ignored due dates. But this was all in my work persona. For some reason those traits and habits aren’t translating into my day-to-day life.

Continuing my self-examination, I started wondering why this is. What are the conditions of a deadline that make it concrete in my mind?  Andhow can I make the goals I set for myself better fit this criteria? As always I have spent some time sitting with these thoughts and come up with a few answers that might help me understand the issue.

Expectation of completion – the first criteria jumped out immediately, an authority figure. Someone I respect who holds the expectation that I will get done whatever job they’ve asked. It gives me a sense of accountability that I have been tasked with something and that someone will know how and when I get it done.

So when it’s just me how can I set up that same sense of expectation? One strategy I’ve devised is to share my goals with other people. To write them down, say them out loud, post them in a blog, whatever. Some way to let at least one other person know and increase that pressure of expectation.

Dependence on completion- this was an especially important motivation for me at my last job, where ten people depended on me to keep my deadlines , so that their housing, food, and work schedules stayed in order. If not turning in my report meant someone in the office couldn’t get their work done on time that motivated me. If not grocery shopping meant putting strain on the food availability for my team that motivated me. Now, if I don’t apply for that job today, I’m the only one affected. I am more likely to make exceptions, procrastinate.

A possible solution to this might be to envision the longer chain of effects meeting or not meeting my deadlines might have. Sure if I don’t apply for a job today the sun will probably still rise tomorrow but if I don’t apply for jobs then I won’t get a job and without a paycheck I can’t make
rent. That would certainly affect my eleven housemates. And not in a good way.

Commitment to completion – Often times I find that when I set personal goals I either set the bar super low so that if I ignore it I can make up for it later or crazy high so that if I don’t reach it I won’t feel bad because it was a stretch in the first place. I can’t say that this is a healthy way to approach goal setting. I’m already making room for myself to blow it off or fail. I haven’t committed to my own success.

Now that sounds like a self-help-book line if I’ve ever heard one but unfortunately I think it’s the truth. Getting over this particular hurdle in goal making will require more than just a casual reassessment of my goal setting tendencies. In essence it will require me to start putting stock in myself and taking my own deadlines quite a bit more seriously.

Though these tactics may not be bulletproof and I still may spend some days wrapped up reading a good book rather than writing my own, I think that they will help me change my thinking around setting goals for myself.

So in the spirit of honoring my own deadlines I will now return to working on the book manuscript I aim to have finished by the end of this year, Imaginary Me. And anyone reading this can feel free to help hold me to it.

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Clearing a Workspace to Fit My Head Space


To empathize with my last work environment I would ask you to close your eyes. Imagine yourself sitting in a
small apartment at a tiny table in front of a malfunctioning laptop, with deadlines on the horizon. You’re body is dead from the day’s manual labor and tomorrow promises more of the same. Dinner still isn’t made. And to top off all these calming factors, dump in ten children running, screaming, asking questions, and breaking shit. The perfect recipe for getting work done.

Now, was I actually working with young children? No, but some days I was hard pressed to see the difference between my 18-24 year olds and a kindergarten class. The questions ‘What time is lunch?’ and ‘What should I do if I forgot my pants?’ were not uncommon. The most valuable skill I attained last year was the zen-like ability to quiet everything outside and empty a spot in my mind to focus. A good pair of head phones and the occasional eye-twitching glare at passersby helped immensely.

I learned through necessity to accomplish my goals even when stress abounded and everything in my immediate environment served to distract and annoy. Some things just needed to get done.

In stark contrast to that is the situation is the one I have now—oodles of time, peace and quiet, and most importantly no overwhelming deadlines. In theory I should be more productive than ever before.

Instead I have found it almost impossible to accomplish anything. Removed from the obligations of deadlines and dependents, my motivation level is stuck on empty.

Conundrum.

I’ve considered this issue of my unproductivity at home for quite some time and discovered some interesting things about myself.

The first is that I have trouble setting my own deadlines. Even when I wake up in the morning and say okay this is what I’m going to get done today and these are the healthy lifestyle choices I’m going to make, there’s about an 86% chance that I’ll ignore that directive and waste my day with a pint of ice cream and a good book.

The second, which I believe ties heavily into the first, is that I cannot work from home. Everything is just a little too easy, too immediate. My chair is too comfy. Snacks, television, and internet are too readily available. And the biggest issue of all, everything is too familiar. There’s nothing around me to challenge, or inspire me, both of which are necessary elements for me to do work. Or at least get inspired enough to search for it.

Now all this might speak more of an inability to decorate on my part, but not having the energy to master the art of feng shui, I’ve found that a big piece of my success lies in just getting out of the house. To leave the comfort and security of home and just explore. It amazes me the difference this little act has made on my mood alone.

My recent explorations have led me to a café called Diesel in Davis Square, and for me it is a perfect mix of eclectic atmosphere and quirky vibes. It’s also a great place to satisfy my people watching urges.

In my hours spent here, I have felt the inspiration of a writing muse that’s been eluding me for quite some time. She, the muse, and I have done some great work recently. There is something about being in that crowded space, about the energy of people around me living and breathing and moving. It reminds me that I’m alive and must continue to move around too.

I never thought I’d miss the hectic over-crowdedness of my last job, but alas here I am seeking it out to find my inspiration. It is increasingly apparent to me that my physical environment has a profound effect on my mental workspace and hopefully this realization puts me one step closer towards figuring it all out.

READ KATHERINE SHAYE OFTEN? CHECK OUT THESE MONEYLESS ENTERPRISES, REFERENCED IN HER LAST POST, Unemployment.edu

Samara – a yoga studio with a work study program similar to the one from the dance complex that I mentioned last week.
Time Trade Circle  – a community group trying to connect people with varied skills to trade labor for labor based on hours in a ‘time’ bank.

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