I’ve been sitting at my computer all morning trying to come up with something to write for this blog. I’ve employed a variety of techniques to get my creative juices flowing. I spent a good hour looking through a favorite architecture book with all kinds of images and writing about Soviet-era concrete construction (don’t ask, it’s just a favorite). Despite being entertained and enthralled with the images and words therein, nothing came to mind to write about. I went back through the old entries of this blog, hoping to find something to reflect on in writing. But despite being inspired by the writing of my fellow bloggers, my brain couldn’t come up with any words for my fingers to type out. I tried focusing on other architecture related topics; working through last semester’s work on my thesis in preparation for my final semester, starting to review the books for my upcoming classes. As with my previous attempts, it was time well spent but ultimately didn’t yield any paragraphs or sentences to speak of.
And then it occurred to me, this process of struggling to meet a deadline where every other piece of work seems doable except what really needs to be done, is its own topic worthy of writing about. Over and over again, I struggle with this problem, whether it is in studio, a deadline at the office, or even with something as simple and enjoyable as writing for this blog.
In most instances where I struggle with meeting a deadline, I have actually done the majority of the work needed, it is just the last little bit that I can’t quite seem to wrap up. Why is that? For me, I think it is a mix of a couple things.
First, the terror of finishing: it is real and it is something to consider. When a project finishes, I turn in my material and hand-off the work that I have agonized over for countless hours. I no longer have the chance to tweak something, to correct an overlooked mistake, and perhaps most important, I can no longer do a better job. My hesitancy surrounding finishing a project could very well come from this fear. I don’t want to hand over my work, I want to keep working, keep refining, and keep adjusting until what I have is perfect. Accepting that I can’t make a perfect project regardless of time is very difficult.
Second, what am I going to do next? I never ask myself this question until the end of a project is near. I am too often consumed with whatever I am working on currently to think beyond it. Once I can see the end, I am no longer just dealing with one project, but I have to figure out the next one. The challenge of working through another complicated project with its own unique set of considerations and challenges is pretty daunting when I am just finishing one up… that took just as much effort.
For me, those two issues lie at the base of my struggles to meet deadlines. So how do I deal with it? I have found a couple simple strategies that have helped me out.
First, break the problem into manageable pieces. Thinking about an entire set of construction documents is mind-boggling, but thinking about just the first floor plan is something that I can manage. This segmenting of a larger problem into its constituent parts transforms a ‘PROBLEM’ into a series of ‘problems’ and lower-case words are always easier to deal with.
Second, look back on what you have accomplished for encouragement. Oftentimes, my head is so far in the weeds on a project that I lose perspective. If I force myself to look at my project from broader perspective, I can appreciate what I have completed. This change in perspective can quickly shift my attitude from what one of ‘look what needs to be done!!!’ to ‘look at what I have completed; I can definitely do this final piece.
Hopefully the next time I’m staring down a deadline I’ll remember my own advice.