Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Don't Do Your Best?

Jonathan's recent post about deadlines is worth reading. As I say in my comment to it, my sense is that people like to work close to (external) deadlines because it gives them a sense of doing their best under the circumstances. If they finish a book review or paper well in advance of the deadline they feel like they haven't given it "their all".

My response to this is that "under the circumstances" needs to be redefined as "according to your writing schedule". That is, circumstances can impinge in a more planned way, over a longer span of time. It is possible to run out of time for a text weeks before the deadline—you might simply have better things to do. In any case, we should not always be doing our best. Just like athletes, who should not be running their best time or lifting their maximum weight every day, we need to maintain a continuous "training intensity" in our studies.

In fact, occasions for "performance" are not really there in academic writing. (It's a bit different with teaching, where it makes more sense to speak of training, preparing, and performing.) You should ideally always be working on your texts at a medium intensity. You should be playing from the center of your strength, not the edge.


Anonymous said...

As an academic with ADHD, I really struggle with deadlines, because an event is either "now" or "not now" for me. As long as it's in the future, it's "not now". I just don't grasp the reality of the impending deadline until it's upon me. On top of that, like most ADHDers, I have to struggle with perfectionism.So now I'm up against my deadline *and* whatever I write has to be perfect.

I've found a way to deal with this. I plan to write a 50% text, instead of a 100% text. I tell myself, "Just get it down on paper and then you can fix it up."

Oddly enough, when I aim to write a 50% text, it usually ends up actually being 80%! But this trick still works for me.

Thank you for your blog, which invariably provokes me to think more deeply about my own writing process.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Thanks, Anti-O. I'm always happy to provoke. Good luck in the struggle.