Election day has come and gone and I did it again. I voted at the last minute.

Even though I receive a mail-in ballot weeks before the election, I never fill my ballot out early. It’s always an election day event. I always think “this year, I’m voting early” and I always spend election day filling out my ballot and driving to the nearest ballot box.

The fact is, without a deadline, I just wouldn’t get this task done. It doesn’t matter that I have all the materials available well ahead of time. I’m the kind of person who procrastinates. I only do the hard stuff when there’s a deadline looming.

This has me wondering if I shouldn’t be embracing deadlines for my many projects (something I’ve written about in depth before). Deadlines are a way to get things done.

During Wild Wonder 2023, Rosalie Haizlett led a great class on designing your passion projects. One of her tips was to give yourself a deadline. I know defining projects and having goals with deadlines can help me to finish things, and finishing is important. As Struthless says in his video A Procrastinator’s Guide To Finishing Things: “Your body of work is only as good as the projects you finish.”

But deadlines and goals can also be a problem. Making the fun stuff mandatory can kill it dead.

Consider my love/hate relationship with eBird. Counting and reporting birds to eBird’s database gives my birding a higher purpose, but it also turns birding into work. It keeps me from birding on the days I’m really tired because I don’t want to feel guilty for not eBirding. A goal that should help me bird more causes me to bird less. When I finally give myself permission to bird without recording everything I see, I get out of the eBird habit and the idea of starting up again is even harder.

The same thing is true with nature journaling. I feel guilty if I visit an interesting natural site and only walk, only look around, only relax. Yet nature journaling is about appreciating your surroundings. The focused attention takes a lot of extra energy, though, as does the recording.

The project mentality results in a sort of pressure, as if the activity on it’s own isn’t important enough. An American friend’s European visitor was astonished that everyone kept saying that going for a walk would be good exercise. She couldn’t understand why they didn’t go for a walk just for the pleasure of walking. Does going for a walk really need a higher purpose?

Apparently. We’re not allowed to just enjoy the things we do. Everything has to have a purpose, some justification, some product, so we can’t be accused of wasting time.

Which brings me back to where I started. How do I finish more things and get myself to spend time on my many projects? By reminding myself that they are fun, things I actually enjoy.

And maybe, although I’m afraid to, something I need to set a deadline for.

How do you feel about deadlines for passion projects?

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