The school system has done us a grave disservice. It has made us reliant on external pressure in order to accomplish anything.
How many people do/did you know in college who started their assignments early, worked a little every day, or set that ‘pretend deadline’ like the teacher suggested? Umm yeah.
Lets face it, most of us procrastinate for weeks, bitch and moan as the deadline approaches, post facebook statuses like ‘9 hours till paper’s due…2/25…fml!!!!!!’ and then finally burst into action and finish in the nick of time. We need the fear and adrenaline that comes along with a fast-approaching deadline. In fact, we’re completely dependent on it. Without it we get zero work done.
School does not teach us how to get things done ourselves. It doesn’t prepare us for a self-directed life. Nope, it prepares us to be good little workers in order to meet our future employers’ deadlines.
And for most people, that’s exactly what happens. They go into the work force, the boss sets deadlines and they meet them. They know this routine well because hey, it’s just like school! Yahtzee.
In a World Without Fire
This is all fine and good if you’re planning on working a traditional job and not pursuing any outside goals ever. But for those of us with our own plans, the deadline-induced approach simply will not cut it.
First of all, in most cases the deadline just doesn’t exist. Nobody’s going to force you to start that bike co-op or write that novel. You’re not going to flunk out of school or lose your job if you don’t backpack through South America for a year.
Second, most long term goals cannot be accomplished in one sitting. They require a little bit of work each day, which amounts to massive results over time. And this is a skill we simply have not cultivated in school. Too often we get intimidated by the massive task before us and are unable to start at all.
The Tortured Artist
Artists sometimes feel as though they have found a way around this. No, there’s no deadline… What motivates them instead? CREATIVE INSPIRATION!
Some of the artists I know don’t work at all until they are hit with that divine inspiration. Such are the people who make statements like: “I only work when I’m inspired,” or “you can’t force the creative process”.
This is just as bad as relying on a deadline. Both approaches make our ability to produce entirely dependent on external circumstances. They are cop-outs that allow us to blame other things for our lack of productivity. Plus, they’re risky and can lead to things like writers’ block, because you know, what happens if inspiration never strikes again?!
The truth is, If you ever want to produce anything meaningful, you must take responsibility for your own productivity.
I want to know how you motivate yourself to work when there’s no deadline or external pressure? Share your process in the comments below.