Benefit of Courses: Externally Imposed Deadlines

How many times have you written a research paper soon (ahem, ‘immediately’) before it was due? Now, in contrast, how many times have you written a research paper just because? Or well in advance? The answers here tell us something important: deadlines boost productivity.

Much like the steep learning curve, the deadline is an oft-maligned but incredibly helpful productivity tool. If we know when something has to be done, we tend to do it.

I think deadlines were a major reason I learned so much more during year 2 than I did during the previous years. Coursera imposed real deadlines. Deadlines made me get that extra hour of work in when I really didn’t feel like it.

But what about the effortless font of creativity? After all, Beethoven, in all the movies, is so caught up in love of music that it just flows out of him, whether he makes time or not. Aren’t we all supposed to be movie Beethovens of code?

I think not. I’m not an expert on the real Beethoven, but I bet, at least once or twice, he had a cold and practiced hard anyway. I bet there were times when his symphonies were 3/4’s done and he was sick of them, and he finished them anyway.

Now, if you find yourself with a boundless font of creativity, by all means, work away. My point is not that you ignore the natural enthusiasm; that enthusiasm is why I started writing code in the first place. My main point is this: If you only work when you feel like it, and only do what you feel like, you will get less done than people with external deadlines get done.

A simple case in point: I started this blog in June. I posted twice. Then it sat for months and months. I love writing; there were times over the summer when I could have written for hours, but I didn’t. It’s not that I had no natural creativity, no enthusiasm during that time; it’s that I didn’t make it a priority because no one was going to care if it didn’t get done.

So, if you have something you want to get done, and no one is making you do it, take a class. Or make a schedule, and tell people your schedule. Believe me, once you have a deadline that is not within your control, you will become a lot more productive.

I restarted my blog thanks, in large part, to Simple Programmer, and their course on blogging for programmers. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like an external deadline to put your publishing schedule on track.

Till next week, happy learning!



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