Set Your Deadline To Half The Time You Think You Need
A while back, I read “When,” Dan Pink’s latest book on time. It was an interesting read to be sure, but the number one takeaway I pulled from the book has to do with deadlines. In example after example, he proved that when faced with a deadline, no matter if it was a team of folks or one person, that they would not even start on the work until halfway to the deadline. This behavior happened no matter if the deadline was two weeks away (work would not begin in earnest until a week before the deadline) or the deadline was six months away. When given two weeks to complete a task, or one week to complete a task, teams, and individuals did roughly the same amount of work and produced approximately the same quality of work (at least most did) by the deadline. Sure, in some cases, the work was more polished and expanded, but in most cases, it was about the same. So, if you want to be more productive, a simple tweak is to attempt to tighten up your delivery deadlines. Don’t take the deadline as the deadline – cut the time in half and make that your new deadline, and hew to that instead. For example, if you have a paper due by the end of the month, mentally revise that date to the 15th. Try to forget that the paper is really due by the end of the month and imagine this new due date as the real one. Work on the new date. My guess is that you will get that done by the new date and be surprised at how well you did it. I routinely pack in 3 blog posts into an hour’s worth of writing at my Shut Up & Write meetups on Thursdays, simply because that is the deadline I have set for myself.
Imagine That Its More Work
Another trick: imagine the work to be way more work than you think in your mind. Double the work in your head, and you’ll drive yourself to start and work faster, considering that the job will take up all of the time allotted. I regularly psyche myself up like that, telling myself that I have to do a 30-page deck when a 10-page deck suffices. I allocate a full day to doing the deck, and then once I start, I find that I can finish in a few hours when I fixate that the works are much more than it actually is.
Be First In Line
Whenever you need to do something which several people will also be doing – like reading an essay or a speech to the class – don’t be the last guy in line or the middle guy. Be the first in line. Even if you are an avowed introvert – force yourself to do it first. There is no comparison between the relaxed state that you will be in AFTER you have completed the task and the frantic state that you will be in while watching everyone else get up in front of the class and do their thing, all the while building within you the sense that “you can’t do this” or “how can I top that”. Plus, if you are the first to go, even if you flub up, they are less likely to remember you.
So in closing:
- Cut your deadlines in half
- Imagine the work as much more significant than it really is and
- Go first. There is nothing like the feeling of relaxation as you sit back and watch everyone else go up and present, knowing that you are done.