The benefit to set up a deadline

“To achieve great things, you need a plan and not quite enough time”.

Leonard Bernstein

During last years the concept about that deadline as an excellent tool to achieve objetives has popularised and spreading. For that reason we can imagine that this concept is new, but it is not. We could find information about a deadline in 1955 with the enunciation of Parkinson’s Law. Nowadays more recent (and well noticed) investigations were made by Dan Ariely in 2002, leaving this concept becomes popular.

Parkinson’s Law enunciates “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, but there is an opposite statement, or better expressed a corollary: Work contracts to fit in the time we give it.

Within the paper from Dan Ariely and Klaus Wertenbroch about Procrastination, deadlines and Performance: Self-Control by Pre-commitment (highly recommended to read and learn, and incredibly short -only 6 pages-), have developed three important questions and a conclusion about deadlines:

  • Do people self impose costly deadlines to overcomes procrastination? Yes!
  • Are self imposed deadlines effective in improving task performance? Yes
  • Do people set self-imposed deadlines optimally? No
  • And a ulterior conclusion: People try to self-imposed deadlines, but those self-imposed deadlines are not always as effective as some external deadlines.

So, taking the corollary about Work contracts to fit in the time we give it, and the benefit to set up a deadline, a possible path to avoid to be trapped by Parkinson’s law could be:

1. Set an clear objetive: There are a lot of variations about what is the work that we want to achieve, but after to clarify our thoughts we can affirm, for example: I must to develop a document with 1000 words before June 30th, or run 10 kilometres to participate into the career.  No matter whatever the objective, it is Important to establish what will be.

2. Set a hard deadline to achieve this objetive: A hard deadline gives a propose, a defined space of time to work.

3. Create an action plan: Considering that there is already a block of time and a goal, a plan is required to move forward.

Knowing our own weaknesses allow us to look for tools to achieve our goals; as useful as using our own weaknesses to take advantage over ourselves to achieve more things instead of less.
To learn how we work, what kind of things that let us to move forward or not, and what is the best environment to achieve our best performance is our responsibility.
Perhaps one of the most value use of our time and one of the most valuable thing to do, it is to take a moment to assess our real situation, and plan our next steps.


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