Why Deadlines Will Help You Work Harder, Play Harder and Be True To Yourself

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This article is something I have really been trying to live and something that I will continue to live. I have goals, and ambitions and there are a lot things I want to accomplish… But it’s all too easy to put things off.

You see, if you tell yourself that “it doesn’t matter” when something gets done, the likelihood is that it will never get done.

You know this is true, we’ve all done it.

But deadlines mean that at some point you are actually going to have to do some work.

For many in school this means waiting till the last minute and then pulling a panicked all-nighter. But in the “real-world” – when it is for something you love – a nice firm deadline helps give you that little extra kick each day to get things done.

I think I first truly appreciated this when I was saving money for my gap-year travels. Dave (my best friend and travel partner) and I were languishing in the planning stages – we had compiled a list of about 17 different countries to visit in about as many weeks.

Obviously that wasn’t going to work.

But until we actually walked in to a travel agents and stabbed at a relatively arbitrary date on the calendar, our plans could go little further. With an outbound and return date however we could far more effectively organise ourselves.

Not only that it gave us a very precise amount of time in which to earn enough money to ensure our survival in strange countries.

(Well, at least we hoped it would ensure we didn’t starve)

The impact on our lifestyles of having a deadline was significant; an extra beer on a night out here was suddenly the equivalent to a night’s stay in a guest house in Thailand.

Everything became weighed against the deadline and in probably 95% of cases we acted accordingly – in a way that would benefit our travels.

Now I have finished university and face different kinds of deadlines – mainly self-imposed but no less important. I also have to ask myself some pretty scary questions – questions that I might like to avoid most of the time.

(Luckily I can rely on my friends to prompt me on the difficult ones!).

This is why I like to remind myself of the benefits of setting deadlines: you can work harder, play harder and stay true to yourself the whole time.

Work Harder

If you define “working harder” as getting more done in less time, then by definition, having a deadline will increase your productivity compared to no deadline at all.

But – the omnipresent hedge – there are good deadlines and bad deadlines. The bad variety will cause undue stress, sleepless nights and defeatism.

Yeah, that sucks.

The good variety will increase motivation and productivity and you’ll feel better about yourself too. I talk more about what I consider to be good and bad kinds of deadlines in my free eBook – How To Be Good At Everything – which will be released on Monday to all subscribers.

Play Harder

When you have a suitable deadline in place you can actually make a workable schedule. One beautiful benefit of this which most people seem to overlook is that it allows you to really go after your free time. 

You can say with certainty “I am available then” and spend the evening relaxing with your friends guilt free.

You did what you needed to earlier in the day, and now you get to play. And believe me that not only does all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, but it also makes him overworked, under-exercised and, well, it’s not exactly a fulfilling way of breathing on this rock.

To really ensure you make the most of this time, you must practice being present in the moment. There will be more of my take on this in How To Be Good At Everything, but The Art Of Manliness website has already done tremendous justice to the subject of being fully present (the article is aimed at men, but really anyone can learn from it).

Be True To Yourself

The final – potentially most important and rewarding – result of setting deadlines is the ability to stay true to yourself and maintain integrity. Deadlines enable you to actually complete things that are important to you.

Sticking to them and getting shit done prevents those “what if” questions which can plague otherwise healthy minds.

It means that you can follow pursuits of passion more effectively instead of being stuck spending too much time on things which don’t fulfil your needs and which don’t reflect who you are and who you want to be.

So what do you think? Do you like the structure that deadlines provide or do you prefer a more relaxed approach?

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10 thoughts on “Why Deadlines Will Help You Work Harder, Play Harder and Be True To Yourself

  1. Is this related? I love tick lists! Honestly can’t get enough. Setting the deadline then physically ticking it off a list. There is something so rewarding about it! It got me through my shitty revision. I recommend it fsrs xxxxxxxx

    1. Lists are definitely awesome… I’m sat here with one next to me for the day!

  2. Surely any deadline has the chance to create defeatism though?

    1. This can be true, but there are things you can do to minimise self-defeatism. For example having smaller and easily achievable deadlines (which help you work towards the big one!) that allow you to build up momentum. Sticking with the example of my travels, the big deadline was obviously when the plane left (lol). But smaller deadlines were things like; “save £500 by this date” or “buy a backpack by this date”. Another way of managing is by setting a goal of achieving one thing each day which can get you further; writing 250 words say, or reading 10 pages.

  3. You are so different to your brother I think the thought of Peter being as organised would be a major breakthrough. But you should not always live by lists you need to have a life with spontaneity sometimes.

    1. I completely agree, and I’m a big fan of spontaneity – so much so that I actually have a blog post on that very topic in the works! I look forward to hearing your opinion on that when it’s done.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. Clytemnestra says:

    I’m with Melon – I love tick lists. I’m a great fan of ticking off things as it gives a huge sense of achievement.

  5. Deadlines are definitely an important thing. I for one have serious deadlines for work and assignments to be handed in. I have to get a certain number of clinical procedures signed off each day.
    These are deadlines that i have to do or i fail and am back to square one. A real incentive, as i am sure anyone who has done any exams at any level in anything would agree.

    However, you havn’t touched on giving up. If you have a goal – i agree, stick to it. Good planning and sensible aims will eliminate this to a certain extent, but not completely. What happens when you have set yourself a target that seemed reasonable at the time, but after a while perhaps isn’t going the way you expected. I believe that it is healthy to know when you have failed, when it is time to say – ‘right time for plan B’.

    1. Good points. Knowing when to keep going and when it is unreasonable to do so is a very useful skill to have! I do think that as you get better at planning that this will happen less and less, but there are always unknowables in life and it is good to be able to deal with them.

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