How to Set Effective Deadlines and Become More Productive

Deadlines. Some people love them, and others love to hate them. Sometimes we get a lot more work done when we are under pressure. But most of the time, they add an unneeded amount of stress. Here’s why you shouldn’t focus solely on using deadlines to boost your productivity.

The Downsides of Deadlines

A deadline is essentially an end date for the completion of a project. By setting a deadline, you can motivate yourself or your employees to work harder. While deadlines may have been designed to force people to work harder, what kind of negative effects do they have on one’s mental health?

Often the very mention of a deadline causes the average employee to feel anxious. Is this really how you would want to feel when working on an important project? Constant stress can put a damper on the overall quality of the work, not to mention the inability to come up with creative, out of the box ideas. How does one expect to be proud of the work they’ve done with the eternal shadow of a deadline looming over them?

“Get to, Not Have to”

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In a blog post by author and entrepreneur Seth Godin he says:

“Deadlines work. They work because they focus the mind and create urgency. They work to get us to file our taxes or finish an assignment. They’re an external lever for the work we have to do.

On the other hand, dessert works too. You don’t need an external force to encourage you to eat dessert after you’ve finished all your vegetables. It’s something you get to do, not something you have to do.”

So rather than viewing deadlines as an impending doomsday in our calendar, wouldn’t it make much more sense to do work we actually enjoy in the first place? You don’t need to be motivated to spend time with friends and family because it’s enjoyable to do. Why should work be like that too? 

How to Set More Effective Deadlines

Deadlines drain our motivation, and all though most of the time we get the work done (at 50% of our usual rate), it’s only because we have to. So how can you set deadlines that increase productivity and reduce stress?

Using Parkinson’s Law to set deadlines is one of the best things you can do for yourself. The basic concept here is that “work fills the amount of time allocated to it.” So instead of setting deadlines that are months away (causing you to dread every second leading up to it), set a smaller amount of time, say two hours to complete a task. This will give you the quick boost in focus you need while avoiding the stress that comes with deadlines that are further away. Another benefit of using this method is that it often allows us to find far more joy in the work that we do, as we are not constantly worrying about how much time we have to do it.

How to Use More Effective Deadlines in Your Daily Life

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If you are self-employed or have a side business, it will prove to be fairly easy to incorporate more effective deadlines into your life. However, if you are an employee working in a corporate setting, it may be harder to do so. No matter the case, everything starts with baby steps. Start by phasing in more short bursts of pressure to motivate yourself to focus on completing important tasks. The more you do this, the more you will realise the effectiveness of the technique. Eventually, you might decide to ditch deadlines completely and instead use these short bursts of pressure to complete work throughout the day.

Bottom Line

Deadlines often not only drain your motivation but also cause the quality of your work to be lower and prevent you from coming up with creative, out of the box ideas. Whether getting rid of deadlines is the way to go or not, it is apparent that they do not improve productivity. The best way to utilise deadlines in your everyday life is to make the most of Parkinson’s Law. This way you can increase the amount of work you get done while at the same time reducing the stress of a looming deadline.

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4 thoughts on “How to Set Effective Deadlines and Become More Productive

  1. I agree with this. I think shorter targets and encouragement.


  2. This is great! I have been working from home for over 5 years now, and I still have to focus on being better about setting deadlines. Reading through this genuinely helped!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This really help me in my busy and productive schedules and I am now able to get some time for myself! Really a very good blog that has all things I ever need. Keep sharing


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