Deadlines can be tools for focus and achievement, if used well. Check out these 4 easy tips to getting things done faster.
Tip #3: Use Semi-Short Deadlines in Projects
Deadlines work even if they're not as tight as an hour from now. When you have a long-term project, set milestones every 2-3 days. That gives you a deadline to work towards that's close enough to be motivating, yet far enough away to get some real work done. In any ongoing project, I try to have at least one--preferably two--milestones each week. Here's why:
If you miss a milestone by one day, how long does it take you to catch up? You're one day behind. Simple math tells us if you work 25% overtime, it will take you four days to catch up. Doable. Unpleasant, but doable. (Kind of like my first kiss in high school .)
But if you fall a week behind, it will take you an entire month of 25% overtime to catch up. That's simply impossible. With frequent milestones, you know sooner when you've slipped, and you can take corrective action immediately.
Tip #4: Use a Hard Stop Deadline at the End of Your Day
Some of us are self-employed, or students, or just compulsive over-workers. We do things like listen to personal productivity podcasts for fun. For us, it may take conscious effort to work less. Work less by setting a firm deadline for yourself. Decide you'll leave the office at 5:30 pm. Of course, you make it a real deadline by scheduling a 5:30 pm meeting at home, or at your dorm. I used to carpool. No one, not even me, argued when I said, "I have to leave at 5:30 to catch my carpool home.”
As the afternoon comes around, your end-of-day deadline will motivate you to focus and really get stuff done. Then when you leave, your mind will be clear as a babbling brook upstream from any industrial processes.
Here’s the Quick and Dirty:
Deadlines can be your friend.
Set them frequently so they compel focus. (I'm writing this episode during a Do-It Day, knowing I have only 7 minutes left before I report in.)
Use back-to-back meetings as an excuse to usher things along.
Use 2-3 day deadlines to keep projects moving and detect early slips.
Go home using an end-of-day deadline.
And for goodness' sake, demand an office with a door. Cubicles suck!
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!