“A deadline is a time or date before which a particular task must be finished or a particular thing must be done,” according to Collins English Dictionary. Typical tasks can be done in hours or less, while projects could take days or weeks and involve other people as well.
Without deadlines, efficiency decreases, and productive results are diminished. Opportunities are missed, projects are delayed, costs are increased, customers are lost, and procrastination is enabled. Without deadlines, Parkinson’s Law – the tendency to expand our activities to fill the time available – takes effect, and time is wasted. And without deadlines, motivation might be lacking, goals might be abandoned, careers might be threatened, and corporate profits might be decreased.
Deadlines increase efficiency and forces you to be proactive. Deadlines help coordinate the efforts of others, promote teamwork, help motivate and inspire both individuals and teams, provide focus, and encourage employees to be time conscious. The ability to set and meet deadlines can not only further your career or the success of your business, it can build your reputation as a resourceful, action-oriented individual who consistently meets deadlines, with a track record to back it up. Deadlines can be your lifeline to success.
Having a deadline does not put you under stress. Only unrealistic deadlines put you under stress. Deadlines on all tasks and projects are meant to counteract Parkinson’s Law. With less time available, you are more apt to be creative, prioritize, delegate, and focus on the task while ignoring the trivia that would normally distract you from your goal.
Deadlines do not cause extreme urgency; deadlines help prevent extreme urgency by allowing you to pace yourself by knowing how much time you have available to complete a task, and by starting and managing your time accordingly. Things usually become urgent when you either have no deadline and delay the task until it becomes urgent or ignore the deadline that you do have. A lack of deadlines indicates a lack of planning, since you have failed to consider how much time is necessary to complete the task.
If you were to work fewer hours and get the same amount of work done, you are increasing productivity through increased efficiency. But this is accomplished, not through working more hours, but by making better use of the hours you work. You tend to do be more productive when you have less time, not more time. With fewer hours worked, you are exposed to fewer self-interruptions, pay less attention to potential distractions, and tend to say “no” with more regularity. You would not have time to surf the Internet or stare out the window or overindulge in coffee during those work hours.
Shorter time frames do produce some sense of urgency. And that is good. A little pressure moves a project or task to completion. It overcomes inertia, procrastination, and the inclination to waste time or get sidetracked. A little pressure produces results. It is also stimulating and makes you feel alive, active, and productive. I am not talking about unrealistic deadlines, a keen sense of time urgency, an overwhelming workload or excessive overtime that would all probably trigger the “fight or flight response” described in my e-book, Making stress work for you. I am simply referring to realistic deadlines. I will discuss realistic deadlines in my next article.
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