Saturday, March 31, 2007

Deadlines and Leisure Times

It’s finally almost over! Although I was able to relax (maybe too much) and catch up on some much needed sleep (again… ), I’m glad that the pressures of deadlines and juggling my time to accommodate everything will soon be back. I guess it’s possible that if I were in Cancun, or Fort Lauderdale or Palm Springs I would be dreading the return to the daily grind. Possible, but not likely. Just like the 2006 version, I am looking forward to the conclusion of Spring Break 2007.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good vacation and it’s probably true that I needed a couple of days to regroup - but nine? I used to think that having five weekdays off, sandwiched between a pair of weekends, was pure, unadulterated heaven. A week of doing nothing but eating and sleeping, without a care in the world - especially in contrast to the pressures of the weeks leading up to it - was, at one time, the destination. Indeed, the only thing better would be a lifetime of days without toil or worry… a lifetime of the “good life.”

Unfortunately and as I have discovered in the last five or six years - I am not built that way. If I don’t have some sense of urgency to get something done, nothing much gets done. And I want to say how unfair that is; lament why I can’t be happy doing nothing - indeed I want to curse the heavens, “What happened?” I used to be able to let the world go by with nary a thought. Not caring was all I cared about. Procrastination was often followed by dereliction and I was happy with that. Now, I am at my most content when there are things to do - the kinds of things that have a firm deadline. You know, the kind with an implied and understood “or else” clause.

I like to read. I love to write. Photography is a passion of mine. And although I have spent much of my free time these past several days doing those things, none of them are required for anything at all. It’s just for my personal enjoyment. Still, I had to literally peel myself away from the couch almost every time. Therefore, as I write these very words, I am having a revelation - right here, right now! Could it be that a component of what I like so much about these and other similar tasks in my life is the deadline? Is it possible that for me to extract maximum contentment from my toils, there must be someone waiting for the results?

I don’t want to give the impression that my life would be a stagnant blob without a deadline driving everything. The laundry still got done. The shopping and other chores are still unscheduled but regular events. But nobody is going to say anything if I intend to do such and such on Wednesday and I don’t get to until Thursday. There is no “or else” for these and other similar jobs. But I don’t generally like to do these things. I am not eager to go clean the bathroom - ever. But I do love to write, and shoot pictures, and read - really and truly.

Why then have I not spent this abundance of free time doing those things? Why has it been such an effort to pour myself into these things, my favorite things? Part of it, I think, must be the lack of a deadline. No one requires it, no one needs it now and there is no pressure. It is not that I absolutely need that external pressure to do these things I enjoy - the evidence is before you, but it surely appears to be a component that drives production and in some abstract way adds to my satisfaction. Spring Break, as far as I’m concerned, might just as well be a three-day weekend.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Yeah, once that lethargy sets in, forget it. All over and done with. I turn into a slug.

(btw, BAFAB week is April 1-7, so you've got time yet)

Pat said...

Well young man, you are going to have to plan how you will handle retirement - although I know it's decades away.
I am sure you will have the self discipline to invent your own deadlines and get the dull pedestrian jobs out of the way so you can enjoy the creative ones.
Michele says hi!

Olyal said...

I love deadlines... especially the wooshing sound as they go flying by! I am an expert procrastinator, and it sounds like, without a deadline, you are too!
Michele sent me past today.

MsT said...

then maybe you should put deadlines on your free time activites as well - for instance - set a date to take your books to the used book store and make sure you read them by then. Or to make sure you visit a favorite restaurant, get a gift certificate that expires by a certain date in order to make sure you treat yourself. (speaking from experience...)
Michele says hi.

Michael K. Althouse said...


Good ideas all, but it's not the same as getting an "F" for a late assignment or being the reason the presses are held up when a story is due. Deadlines - real deadlines need real consequences or else they're not deadlines, they're just good intentions.


Anonymous said...

Well I have no suggestions for you because I'm the same way, my job does not exactly have deadlines (or you could say I'm on an immediate deadline as I do inbound technical support- every call is a deadline!)
My kids hate that I'll say we're going to go hiking & then put it off for 3 or 4 weeks because there's so many other things to do!
I think in my case, it is partially inertia, I come home from work, settle down to the computer or with a book (or worse yet, with the tv remote) & I just want to keep doing this pleasant activity, never mind how pleasant I might find the other activity later, this is fun right now.
Here from Micheles.

Anna said...

I am much better with deadlines and urgency. I am wondering if it might because I am a creative type....I don't know. Something to think about maybe.

You really need to make time for the things you love in your leisure time...the consequence of not doing it is you may lose some spark. I have to purposefully plan do engage in what makes me smile (like photography). We all need to put a priority on taking time for ourselves to rejuevenate....even if you have to schedule it in. :)

Bobkat said...

I'm an awful lot like that too. With me I think it is because I am required to react to deadlines all the time in work and study so that when I do get some free time I sometimes just need to do nothing and let my mind recover. Still, I never find it hard to go off and take photos :-)

Thanks for the well wishes over my
Thinking Blog award. I am sincerely flattered that I made your short list. You would have certainly made mine but seeing as you already have one I decided to spread the joy a little.

carmilevy said...

I think I'm genetically coded to perform on deadline, Mike. When I worked in radio, I wrote scripts for newscasts every half hour. News run was the biggest rush going: you just put your head down and hammered out copy without giving it much of a second thought. I learned a lot about prioritization when I worked there, and to this day I revere the deadline as sacred.

Still, my photography and blog writing generally don't come with deadlines. So when the muse has little to say, I leave the pen and the camera where they are. It's almost as if my soul knows when it's time to tell a story and when to simply say nothing. I suspect artists are born with that creative wave, and they know when to ride it and when to stay on the beach.

Or something like that.

Olyal said...

Michele sent me back again to bask in the glory that is you Mike!!!

mckay said...

i could win the contest for the world's worst (or is it best?) procrastinator....but i didn't buy the airline ticket in time to get there.

the rush of a deadline can be intoxicating. i've felt it on a daily basis. sometimes it's work oriented, other times it's personal - opening night for a performance...getting that easter basket ready and know, the standard stuff.

thanks for being a bud, sam.

p.s. who is this michelle, and why does she keep sending ladies to you? is this legal?

kenju said...

Don't get "too old" too soon, Mike. You sound like me!

I am not home yet, but I will post in 1-2 days about the trip.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Maybe you have to give yourself a "deadline", if that is the way you work best---even 'at play', if you know what I mean....It's as if you don't see these things as important in some way....The mining of one's creative spirit is always important and has as much weight as the other things, if you give them that weight. I don't know if this makes any sense---I know what I mean but I'm not sure I have expressed well...(lol)

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Oooops....I forgot to say Michele sent me!

talj said...

Hi Mike,

Came across your blog via Carmi's and just thought I'd say hi! I visited California in 2005 and stayed in Sacramento for a couple of weeks....going to take a look around your blog and see if I see any photos of places I recognise!!

At the moment due to ill health I am housebound and have found that setting myself little targets/goals is the only thing that keeps me going! Without these I think I would go crazy so I can understand your need to have those deadlines to meet!

Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend! I'll be checking back regularly!

Take care :o)

Natalya (talj)

Anonymous said...

I have found that i spend so much time running around like a lunatic that when I have nothing to do, I get nervous! I mean, fidgitty, pacing, clock watching, the whole nine yards. thats when i start inventing tasks for myself to do. Ok, so maybe its not really worth the time re-caulking the bathroom tub once a year, or skim coating the cement stairs, but it beats having nervous fits all the time.

Snaggle Tooth said...

Ok, I see the distinction you've made between goal n deadline. Merely rewarding yourself isin't the same as getting punished by a judge figure. Your reasons are commonly tied to motovation n prioritizing.

One day very soon it'll be bread n butter consequences, perhaps with a strict editor.

I'm motovated by the end result, which always seems to take so long to get to. I won't get any material reward until I reach that point. I don't like stuff half-done, n I got piles of it IP.

I like blog-side-tracking at every chance tho- ! Gotta play a bit!

Belizegial said...


I can only say that I'm in awe of your ability to handle the pressure of deadlines. After a blog hiatus, it feels good to be back in the blogosphere.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to my own Easter break next week. Four BIG days off.

Congrats on keeping it all together and keeping your eyes trained on the goalpost.


Anonymous said...

Free saying this over and over again..spaced out look..)...

gosh'' envious..

RC said...

I TOTALLY understand what you are saying.

When my life is at it's busiest I do my best in ALL things, because I'm forced by virtue of my schedule to make all my time count, and if I'm able to steal a few moments away for something social, or enjoyable, even in those things, I can make them count.

Anonymous said...

I'm like you to a certain degree. I love deadlines, though my life can function without them. As a writer it is hard not to look forward to a deadline and then work backward to see when you really need to get to work.