Bill Abbate

Why is it that your productivity soars whenever you have something you must do? Especially when you have a deadline. You get it done! This is especially true when you are about to head out on vacation and pack an entire week’s work into a couple of days!

Let’s take a closer look at why this happens and how you can use it to your advantage.

The deadline

There is little doubt when you are on a strict deadline, you will find yourself at peak productivity. But there is much more to deadlines. They are a vital part of life and living.

We start learning about deadlines at a very young age, although we may not call them that. There are many advantages to using them in everyday life.

Remember when your parents told you to finish cleaning your room if you wanted your allowance/reward/game/treat/toy? Or it could have been doing something else by a specific time; otherwise, you wouldn’t get what you want. You may not have called it a deadline back then, yet that is what it was. You had deadlines throughout school, studying, doing your homework, arriving on time, being at practice, waking up, etc.

As you aged, the deadlines piled higher, even if you didn’t recognize them as such. As an adult, you have a deadline for paying each bill, being at work, meetings, socializing, dinner, for practically everything! Can there be a positive outcome for these deadlines? There can be if you want to turn your dreams into reality!

“A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” Harvey Mackay (1932-present)

Dealing with deadlines

Are you familiar with the term “sense of urgency”? You create a sense of urgency whenever you pressure yourself or someone else to do something within a specific timeframe. It happens to most of us regularly and is a key component in setting deadlines.

Let’s look at the four primary types of people in the world regarding deadlines and their sense of urgency. There are many in-between types, but we will only focus on the main four for this article.

“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” Jim Rohn (1930–2009)

To better understand how each of the four types of people deals with deadlines, let’s look at a specific task. We will use the example of imagining today is Monday, and you have a deadline to deliver your part of a project by Friday morning.

Type 1 — Get it done. Now!

The first type of person will work to finish the project well ahead of schedule. Because they wish to avoid the strain of doing things at the last minute, they are more proactive in mitigating as much stress as possible. They also realize that it could delay them if something else happens. Better to get it done sooner than later! I have just described myself!

This group has a strong sense of urgency for completing tasks.

Type 2 — Plan and execute

The second type of person will lay out a schedule and work each day to chip away at the project. Should something come up, they can still push toward the end and make the schedule. As with the first, this type of person likes some control over the stress created by the deadline.

This group has a more controlled or moderate sense of urgency for most tasks.

Type 3–11th hour!

The third type of person waits until the last minute. They usually complete their part of the project at the 11th hour and even cross the finish line at 11:59! My wife falls into this category, but don’t tell her I said that! While they can be excellent performers, they often finish their work by the skin of their teeth.

This type of person works better under pressure and is as capable as anyone else, usually producing good results. Waiting until the last minute stresses me, yet they can thrive on it!

While this group can experience a high sense of urgency, they can sidestep it for a time. It can be exasperating when you work with such a person, especially if you are one of the first two types!

Type 4 — We’ll get it done. Later…

The last type is the one who worries the least and is unlikely to finish on time. My favorite quote for this person is:

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Douglas Adams (1952–2001)

They deal with stress in a completely different way than most of us. This group of people has a low sense of urgency and, for the most part, remains unfazed by deadlines. Only intense external pressure works on them. Sometimes that is. While this type of person may represent a sizable part of the general population, they often do not fare well in business.

“Everybody knows the power of deadlines — and we all hate them. But their effectiveness is undeniable.” David Eagleman (1971-present)

Using deadlines to your advantage

What can you do with this knowledge of how people deal with deadlines? A lot! Think about it for a minute. You immediately create a sense of urgency or pressure by seting a deadline.

Pressure is a necessary force in life. Without it, few would accomplish much. The pressure/urgency may come from inside or outside of you. Some go through life feeling they must be doing something all the time. We (me included) have this internal sense of urgency that drives us to do something. Anything! When these self-motivated people put their efforts in the right place, they produce results. They tend to achieve a great deal because they live by deadlines, continuously setting them for their tasks.

You can create this internal sense of urgency if it is not part of who you are. Plan what you want to do, break it into smaller pieces, and set deadlines. While doing this, find reasons you must get it done, and your sense of urgency will rise.

These reasons can include anything from not letting others down to making yourself look better. Find a strong enough reason, and you will make sure it happens. This is best done by fully realizing the consequences of failing to create the strongest possible sense of urgency.

“Everything is an experiment until it has a deadline. That gives it a destination, context, and a reason.” Brian Eno (1948-present)

Here is an example of using a deadline in everyday activities. Let’s say you are a writer and decide to write and publish at least five articles each week — Monday through Friday.

By setting a goal of writing five articles per week, you establish a deadline for creating one or more articles daily. You can then set a deadline to write a draft each morning before 10:00, edit and rewrite by 1:00, and do a final edit and publish before going to bed that evening.

It is important to consider the reason for making the deadlines. The stronger the reason, the better. For example, if you must earn money to pay your bills, you have a strong reason!

Please note writing is not an all-day activity as a rule. I usually block out about an hour for each writing task, totaling maybe 3 hours a day. It can take less time or more, but setting such deadlines has helped me publish thousands of articles on various platforms.

Think about something you wish to accomplish daily and create a similar pattern to get more done!

Three steps to success

Have you experienced periods in life when your productivity soared? Most likely, you experienced what is known as a state of flow or being in the zone. It occurs when you suddenly seem to be able to get things done in a way that is so smooth it is almost effortless. We all wish we could tap into this more often, and when you set deadlines, you will find it easier to do.

How many times have you been within days of leaving on vacation and had a surge of productivity? Why do you think this happens? A few things are apparent. It becomes a simple three-step process that includes:

  1. Knowing the exact outcome required so you can leave and thoroughly enjoy your free time for the next week or two or more.
  2. A firm date and time by which you must finish. In other words, a “drop-dead” date and time to avoid suffering consequences.
  3. The ability to focus on the tasks at hand to get them done!

The pressure created by having such a deadline on the front end exceeds the stress of being late. This pressure or sense of urgency works in your favor, pushing you to meet or beat the deadline. Once you complete the deadline, the stress disappears, and you gain the satisfaction of achievement.

Imagine all you can get done in the average day or week when you use the benefits of correctly setting deadlines!

“Give yourself a deadline to stop planning and to start taking action.” Andy Gilbert (1914–1992)

If you genuinely want to be highly productive, why not add a touch more to the schedule than you can handle? In other words, overload yourself slightly. This will help you accomplish more, increasing your capacity and ability to do even more!

“Deadlines aren’t bad. They help you organize your time. They help you set priorities. They make you get going when you might not feel like it.” Harvey Mackay (1932-present)

Final thoughts

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.” Nolan Bushnell (1943-present)

Every high-achieving person or organization uses deadlines. Using them to create a sense of urgency will make you a high performer. Ignore them, and you will suffer.

Thoughtfully and purposely include deadlines in your life and on your calendar. You will be amazed at how much more capacity you can create in your life, not to mention how much more you can accomplish!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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