Do deadlines actually work? There is one simple trick…

I recently wondered to myself, “are deadlines helpful?”

I may have shared with you before that I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 16 years… I’m not sure if I have conveyed how difficult that is at times. The most difficult part of it all is the solitude in which most things are done. And, not because it gets lonely, but because there is likely no one to hold me accountable.

In a very transparent conversation with myself I asked,

“Do deadlines increase productivity?”

Nope…

The primary reason I concluded this was because the deadlines were ones that I created for myself, and the likelihood is that no one else even knew they existed.

For example, I have a hard due date on every article for the website; Monday at 9:30 EST the article is published.

But, I was writing this article and watched that deadline fly by without much concern because no one else really knew to expect it.

So here is my answer to that issue… accountability.

I, Rashad Pleasant, give you permission, and encourage you to, hold me to my weekly deadline for the website. If you don’t hear from me, feel free to call me out on it.

Is that really the answer?

In a working paper by Alberto Bisin and Kyle Hyndman, an experiment showed where a variety of deadlines where given to different groups and the group that chose their own deadlines was far less productive than groups who were given deadlines or shared checkpoint deadlines.

Even when there were monetary penalties involved, the group that proposed their own deadline underperformed in most areas.

Why though???

Because procrastination is a dirty little mind trick. I am a procrastinator and largely because I do whatever I feel like doing. That means I will also not do what I don’t feel like doing. I can even go so far as to say I will not do a thing regardless of the penalty or consequence involved.

It’s not just me. Some researchers have attributed procrastination to “short-term mood repair and emotion regulation” essentially saying we prioritize feeling better in the moment over doing what needs to be done to feel better later.

If not deadlines, then what?

Actually still deadlines.

Having a projection to finish is really important. Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand as to fill the time allotted for it’s completion. So… definitely set that deadline.

In addition though, create a level of accountability. Tell someone what you are working on and ask them to hold you accountable. If you changed the thought of a deadline to that of a goal, having an accountability partner would make sense in a different way. But, the principle is the same. You are more likely to complete your task when you have an idea that someone is counting on you to do it.

What if I ain’t got no friends??? <- laugh at it

Your accountability doesn’t have to come from someone that you speak to every day. There are more people that will read this article that I don’t know than there are that I do know. And, I’ve given every reader the authority to keep me accountable for my Monday morning deadlines.

I wonder if you can realize a level of accountability from everyone that will benefit in the smallest way from the product of your deadline. Maybe you consider the deadline to be less significant but if you look at the impact it has on the greater product it becomes a far more valuable deadline. Now you can ask, “Who will benefit from that product and what level of accountability can I realize from that?”

When I understood the simplicity of why my deadlines never really mattered I became far more productive.

I hope the same for you in some area of your life.

Let’s be better; together.

Rashad

Share:
@rashadpleasant

@rashadpleasant

I am Rashad. I'm an entrepreneur with over 15 years of cultivating relationships, chasing ideas, and over delivering on promises. I want to share some of the things I've learned along the way with you. Hopefully, it will inspire you to define and achieve your personal definition of success.