Why you should set your own tight deadlines? As you already know, life is full of deadlines. Deadlines at work, at school, payment deadlines, job application deadlines (or application deadlines in general).
There is nothing wrong with deadlines. They are in fact necessary and most of the times will help you get the job done. But there is a time when deadlines can make you feel loose and finally achieve a poor-quality result. When is this time? When deadlines are long. Let’s see an example…
You work for a company and your supervisor assigns you with a certain task, which is due in 1 month. What is the first thing that comes into the mind of most people? They are gonna claim that 1 month is more than enough and that will make them feel comfortable.
The curse of long deadlines
So, what will you do in our hypothetical example? You will work on your project for 2 hours the first week, for another 2 hours the second week and so on, until the end of the month when you will have finished your project. You may ask... What is wrong about this? Let’s see… 3 things are wrong:
Every 2 hours that you will devote to the project each week will be a distraction to you
Since you will have on the back of your mind that there is much time left before you meet the deadline, you won’t be focused
Unfinished businesses of any kind are always in our minds… before we go to sleep, when we are driving. We think: ‘I haven’t finished with this stupid project yet’
Imagine now that for the same task, instead of 1 month, you have 24 hours to complete it. What will be your reaction? You will jump right to work, identifying the most important sub-tasks that you have to execute and will start completing them one after the other.
This lack of sufficient time will make you extremely focused and, therefore, more productive. The quality of your delivered outcome in the case of tight deadlines will be of equal or even higher value compared to the outcome of the longer outcome.
And guess what… you will never think of this project again after the 24 hours have passed, so your mind will be much clearer, and you can listen to your great music while driving.
But why is this happening? The above 2 hypothetical examples are the result of single law, called Parkinson’s law. This law dictates that work increases in order to fill the time available for its completion.
In other words, the more time we are given to complete a task the more time we will use to complete it. If we have to work for 10 hours per day, we will find a way to always be busy during these 10 hours.
If we are given 16 hours, we will fill 16 hours with tasks. But if we need to leave work because of an emergency, then we finish what we have to do in 3 hours and we just leave.
And in the above example you may noticed another sad reality. That despite the fact that humans have doubled their productivity over the past century, we still work longer hours than ever.
Why you need tight deadlines
So, what you should do, in order to be productive and in turn enjoy more free time either at work or at home? When you have a tight deadline, then do nothing.
But when deadlines are long (i.e. longer than they need to be), then set your own deadlines and say: ‘this crap task won’t steal more than 15 hours or 1 day of my life’ and then start working on it and finish in 1 day or less.
Remember that time is the most precious thing we have. Money, for example, can be set to an infinite number when you are a billionaire. Time, on the other hand, is finite for everyone. You can do things to live longer (and better), but no one lives forever regardless of how much money they have.
How about you? Do you set short or long deadlines for yourself? Do you meet deadlines? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Until next time.