Writers want deadlines to keep us on track to:
Submit a proposal
Write a book
Edit a book
Approve the final version of the book
Market the book.
Rinse and repeat, we hope!
Since we have so many deadlines in our writing lives, do we need more in our personal lives? Of course, we may encounter deadlines whether we want them or not. But I’ve found that taking a different, less goal-oriented approach whenever possible has helped me eliminate unnecessary stress.
Missing Meaning in Exchange for a Goal
I once used an app on my phone that set me on a Bible-reading journey that would ensure I’d complete the book in a designated period. I don’t deny I enjoyed the app. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I ended the day’s reading. But seeing little green dots indicating achievement on an app misses the point of Bible reading.
Sometimes I’d miss a day. Catching up took some effort. Then I’d miss another. Catching up took even more time. Before long, I had gotten so far behind that I felt like a failure. Even worse, I rushed through more chapters than I would have liked for the sake of reaching the finish line. Though my intentions and the app developers’ intentions were good, the goal-oriented outcome proved too distracting for me.
Kicking Out the Goal
For my current reading, I felt drawn to my leather-bound Holman Christian Standard Study Bible for Women. I’m reading straight through at my own pace without worrying about how many chapters I read in any given sitting. I am also taking advantage of the intense study notes geared to women. The notes slow me down, but reaching a specific goal is no longer the point. I enjoy this journey more than I did when I felt I had to hit a target. Certain words and phrases resonate with me now more than they did in the past, a phenomenon familiar to repeat Bible readers. I missed this experience when I used a deadline-oriented app.
Which Deadlines Will You Ditch?
Whether it’s reading, cleaning, decluttering, exercising, or something else, if deadlines help you, by all means, use an app, a calendar, or anything you like to achieve your goal. We are different; many people thrive on deadlines and goals in all aspects of life. But I have found that when I get away from deadlines whenever possible in my personal life, I’m more relaxed. My mind is cleared of clutter. Ditching deadlines where I can has worked well for me. Try reorganizing a few places in your life and see what works for you.
Except for writing, of course. We all want deadlines there!
Just yesterday may well have been
the last deadline to beat the band,
the day on which I would have seen
forever’s lovely promised land,
but sight and breath and speech returned
to keep me in the mortal coil
to ponder all that had been learned
from death’s straw-man, now come a foil.
I’d laboured ‘neath the stern pretension
that goals’ fulfillment was life’s end,
and dishonourable was mention
of falling short (heaven forfend!),
but yesterday brought home to me
that to survive is victory.
Yesterday I went down very hard, and the cool twilight-land between this world and the next brought home to me the knowing that while destination is both good and necessary, life is lived in the space between.
Thanks Tamala. I’ve found this to be a constant ebb and flow. I set deadlines that get me going, but then drop them when things become too much. I’m constantly readjusting, but that helps keep me sane and more productive. And agreed on the slow read of the Bible. I sometimes won’t get past one paragraph in a reading, and that’s a good thing.
(Tamela. My apologies for that misspelling!)
Thank you for this. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thrives without a deadline… most of the time 🙂
Stephen W. Hiemstra
August is certainly a transition this year with many deadlines. For some reason, the coffee just seems weaker this month and never in full supply.
While deadlines can be arbitrary and obtrusive, the more normal problem facing authors is some variant of analysis paralysis. My favorite flavor is to say to myself: I will start my new project after I read just one more book. The one book then morphs into two. Soon, I lose track of all my deadlines and find myself in la la land. The extreme case arose when I wrote ten composition binders of handwritten book notes before writing my dissertation.
The antidote to analysis paralysis is to develop a “killer instinct.” It helps to write an outline of your argument and look for holes. Yes. There are books to read, but the highest marginal benefit arises in dealing with the argument holes. It’s like the most profitable spiritual discipline is the one that targets your besetting sin. Reading about popular topics or about everyone else’s sin is entertaining, but it is less beneficial. With an outline in hand and research into your argument holes, you are ready to write.
August has been a difficult and anxious month. Transitions are never easy. Filling holes, sketching an outline, and intuiting a theme can be hard work. Hey, I will procrastinate next month.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Tamela, as a A++++ personality, I look at deadlines as my goals for the day! Today, my goal is to get through my work, get my hair done, and make it to a flight on time. Sadly, the gal who cuts my hair uses deadlines as suggestions….Praying I make my flight!
Mary K. Tiller
This resonated deeply with me. I, too, am following a Bible Reading plan that forces me to chug the word of God more often than I’d like to admit. As much as I want to read the Bible in a year, perhaps it would be better to savor it for as long as it takes me. I’m very inspired by your example! Thank you!
Though I have read the Bible “through,” I have not done it in years. I developed a system that God uses to bless me, grow me, and keep me excited to meet Him every morning, for ten minutes, or for several hours.
My husband named it WORD SEARCH, and he began doing it a couple of years ago. (He has ADD and straight reading through sends him down rabbit trails.)
I choose a word that God brings to my attention, usually a characteristic I want to learn more about, like Joy, Faith, Seek, Blood, Pride, Mercy, etc.
I look up the word in my Bible’s concordance (or Strong’s, if it’s just too exciting to stop searching) and write out the verse in longhand, meditating on it as I slowly write. Sometimes, I add my thoughts after a verse, using a different color ink or writing style. God always prompts me to another word to search before I have finished the one I’m working on.
I have three ring binders filled with hundreds of pages of these searches. It is a practice I will continue until I see Him face to face.
I also make up little symbols for the words which I draw in the margins of my Bible, making a list of their meanings in some blank pages in the back.
For me, this method is exciting. It feels like my God is leading me on this search, showing me exactly what He knows I need to discover.
There is no time limit or goal number of Scripture verses to search each day. I let Him lead me. It is not a thing I HAVE to do. It is a sacred practice I WANT to do. Most often, the time passes too quickly, and the exigencies of life require me to put it away until the next morning.
If anyone would like more information on this, I would be honored to provide it. (I’m not selling anything.)
Anne Mullen Chlovechok
Good advice. Thanks.
Your article gives me courage to share my secret (that some will view as sacrilegious). I had read through my Bible as a teen, but each later attempt ended prematurely. Defeated, I set the yearly plan aside but picked it up again as an older, more mature Christian…and still fell behind. I decided to continue with the plan, removing the deadline. My goal changed from doing the plan to finishing the plan. And I did—six years later! I’m now doing the plan again, aiming for a shorter amount of time. (I do spend time in the Word beyond the reading plan. I like to study.)
Yes! I totally agree, Tamela! I expect writing deadlines, and I enjoy them. Other deadlines, not so much. I have the Bible app, and I’ve read several of their devotions and Bible study lessons, but life happens, and I fall behind. I’ve rushed past the ones I missed to catch up and I’m not focused on the value of the lesson, just catching up. Then I wish I hadn’t committed myself, especially if I joined a group. Reading at my pleasure takes away any stress of meeting a goal.
Good point. Thank you for this, Tamela.
Carol R Nicolet Loewen
Thank you Tamela. I seem to have many deadlines, some of which can’t be altered–a husband with Covid, a presentation, whatever. However, you’ve given me a good reminder that not everything must be on a deadline (although writing does). And I want to check out the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible for Women. Sounds intriguing!