Deadlines exist to give us a set, finite amount time to work on projects we otherwise would possibly never finish, a limit to how long we can tweak our work. They enable us to get things done and out the door, so we can move on to the next.
In a recent burst of desire to upgrade my professionalism, I made myself a goal to always finish things far before the deadline. I started submitting things a week or so before they were needed, both to mine and my clients’ joy. This also had the added benefit of keeping my schedule clean and empty because I could quickly cross items off my to-do list.
Eventually I noticed that despite my good intentions, I was actually submitting “crammed-quality” work. The only difference was that now I was doing so to an internal deadline, as opposed to an external one.
And as we all know, crammed work is typically not one’s best work.
Somewhere along the way, I had started viewing my projects simply as things “to do” and therefore “to finish,” but not things to really craft and develop. My motivation became to get things done quickly, not to get things done well.
That’s when I found the other side: deadlines can be seen as a hard stop line, because they definitely are, but they can also be seen as a “keep working” line. They can give you more time for your projects, and allow you to leave them time to breathe and grow. Aside from nagging you to ship, they also say, "we don't need this yet." It's a wonderful habit to submit things early, but they often aren't needed too early.
As lovely as the idea is to give every single project enough time, however, we don’t often have that luxury. This is where the minimalist practice of making the best use of our resources comes in.
Take a look at your schedule and figure out which projects you need to simply get done, and which ones could benefit from a few more days or weeks before you submit. Generally speaking, it’s probably safe to say that creative projects need more “breathing space” than more administrative-type tasks. By being more discerning of our tasks instead of treating them all equally, we can more intentionally appropriate time for each, and more consistently produce work that leave us feeling proud and fulfilled.