“Unnecessary Deadlines”

That’s the title of an article by Kim du Toit over at his blog.  He points out that in many ways, we poison our own lives by setting unnecessarily rigorous timetables or deadlines for our activities.  Here are some excerpts.

I have never understood why people give themselves deadlines on activities which require no deadlines:  “I have to get my hair cut this week” or “I need to do the laundry today” and “I must finish my book before Saturday” and so on.  Other than an attempt to impose some kind of self-discipline over chronic procrastination, all this does is add a layer of stress into one’s life — all the more so because it’s both needless and self-imposed.  An ex-boss of mine put it in perspective, speaking purely of business matters and not of obvious crisis situations:  “There is no decision can’t be improved by waiting till the next day.”

Speaking of a parent worrying about homeschooling options:

Somebody needs to sit this harried man down and explain one of the most beneficial aspects of homeschooling:  there are no deadlines.  The “few weeks” he’s talking about is an artificial construct:  schools say that the new semester must begin on September 7, therefore that’s when education should begin.  Of course, that’s utter nonsense if you’re not chained to the public (or any) school system:  your kid can take up classes on September 7, or October 15 (or tomorrow, for that matter) — because given the glacial speed of public education, the kid will catch up with, and overtake, his former classmates in a matter of weeks.  (Remember that the entire middle- and high school mathematics curriculum — all five years of classroom instruction — can be learned by an average student in just over six months, when delivered at their own pace at home.)

. . .

Let me assure you all right now:  with the proper course materials, anyone can teach their kids anything.

And best of all, there’s no need to feel pressure to do it by any specified date — hell, you can even learn the stuff with your kids as you go along, and how bad can that be?

There’s more at the link.

Very valuable advice, particularly when it comes to choosing between competing tasks, or setting up a timetable.  My father used to advise me to sort tasks into three groups:  immediate (i.e. needed within 24 hours), medium (i.e. needed within a week) and low priority (anything else).  After doing that, I had to prioritize my time to deal with the immediate items first, then the medium priority ones.  I wasn’t to tackle any low priority items, or set deadlines for their completion, unless I’d already done everything more important – or I couldn’t proceed with a more important item due to something beyond my control (e.g. I had to wait for someone to take me somewhere to get something).  This approach has helped me all my life.  I don’t say I’m always very good about sticking to it (ask my wife!), but I try, and when I try, it usually works well.

Thanks for the reminder, Kim.  I needed that.



  1. I've met people whose parents have given them the keys to a successful life. There are times I wish that I'd had that kind of instruction.

    I learned a lot of mechanical skills, but these kinds of life changing advice wasn't there. Thanks for the lesson. It took years of being on my own to come up with things like this.

  2. Ah, memories. Back in Germany, I was in a Corps support unit. Corps issued routine orders on Fridays, with a suspense of COB the next Friday. But here's the thing – we got our unit mail on Thursday afternoons. So every Friday, we had to drop what we were doing and jump through our collective posteriors to immediately accomplish some arbitrary task.

    One summer, Corps had a fun day (which we found out about the following Thursday afternoon). They handed out plaques to each unit, with some amusing yet accurate fake award. Our was double sided. One side declared us the best unit in the Corps at making things up as we went along. The other side declared us to be the very worst unit at planning anything.

  3. Well … at least the Prussians made their railroads and schools stay on the timetables. Makes you wonder about how many people had their interest in learning smashed by rigid adherence to clock, calendar, and schedule.

  4. "I need to do the laundry today."

    Yeah… that usually is a hard-and-fast deadline for me… because if I don't do the laundry that day, then I will have ZERO clean clothes to wear the next day!

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