17 April 2012

Deadlines: It’s a Love/Hate Relationship

Ah, deadlines.... a necessary evil. Stuff must get done, and some stuff must be done by a certain time.

On the one hand, deadlines bring pressure, stress and the risk of sloppy work. On the other hand, some things just wouldn't get done without them. Without any deadlines, procrastination would rule.

I find I generally procrastinate the most about two types of things:
  • Really easy stuff
    It’s the “I can do that later” kind of stuff that won’t take long but seems like it’s never important enough to do right now.
  • Really hard stuff
    The tasks I just don’t want to think about. They stick around and haunt me, and it would really be easier if I just got them out the way. I just don’t want to.
So I spend a lot of time doing the middle-of-the-road stuff. It's only when I get closer to a deadline that I'll make myself tackle those things.

At work I generally have two sets of deadlines - by lunchtime and by the end of the day. But recently I've had IT working on my computer, and I had to give it up by at certain times on short notice. Usually I keep all my works in progress open so that I know what I have to work on (I hardly ever shut the thing down). But having to get rid of everything made me do a couple of things:
  • I had to document my to-do list very clearly, without relying on just having stuff open (and stressing me out)
  • It made me finish all the current little things, as well as a couple of big ones - and that felt really good.
So I was thinking, how can I apply a similar deadline to other parts of my life, in order to get that buzz of productivity? I'm not sure how yet - I'm not going to banish my personal computer... my willpower isn't that good. But there might be ways to encourage more focus, instead of trying to do three things at once or putting off the hard stuff.

With my writing, I don't think I've met a single deadline I've set for myself. I do beat myself up about it from time to time. But the deadlines are really just a means to an end - a way to push myself forward. The ironic thing is, success in writing means actual deadlines, and that's scary!

Well this was a somewhat disjointed post, but tell me: do you love or loathe deadlines? How do you make yourself get things done?

While I was drafting this post, this one popped up in my Twitter feed and it’s well worth a read.


  1. I do procrastinate sometimes...but I get the job done if there is a deadline. I seem to work better under pressure.

    Deadlines give me a goal to set my sights on. I also work full time so my writing time is precious to me. I try not to waste it.

    Just start small with your deadlines. Meet them, and make another. This is how I practice.

    Great post.

  2. Sometimes I love the ole deadline because it gets me working and focussed. Sometimes, though, it's a worry when the deadline draws near.

  3. Like you both I think I work better under some pressure - but not too much... when I'm completely stressed I can't seem to do anything productive at all!

    Thanks for commenting!

  4. I have discovered that I need deadlines and daily targets. Otherwise, it's way too easy to faff around doing nothing!