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

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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13 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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    1. I had a rather hard time chooisng just one type of physician I would want to work for. So many of them fascinate me, and with me not really going into any medical field other than support, I never gave this any thought in the past. After reading the list, I am more favorable of working for a neonatologist. It is difficult to think about how neonatologist physicians sometimes have the most difficult job in the world, but I can only imagine how amazing it would be to be a part of saving a baby’s life. I had a coworker once whose baby was born at 36 weeks, and her baby had a lot of heart and lung problems. There were concerns about whether or not they would ever fully develop once she had him, but after many months in the NICU, and many scares that happened during it, the doctors were able to save him and he is now a very healthy 5 year old. It is because of that I have a higher interest in the neonatologist field.I hate to say which type of physician I would care less to work for, and it is because I worry that many will take it the wrong way. When I was 16, I used to help my mom at an assisted living home as a caregiver. We would get to work at 7:00 A.M. every morning to prepare breakfast for four of the elderly men and women that we were caring for. We would then make sure that all bedding was changed, rooms were cleaned, meals were prepared, and appointments were handled. We worked 12 hour days, and they were always grueling. The owner of the home made sure that everyone had their medicine and made it to their doctor appointments on time. However, she was more worried about getting paid for her services than actually helping the elderly. She would yell at them if they did something wrong, and even call them terrible names. My mom reported her and we both quit our job, but it has always left a sting in my heart since then. It is because of my experience with that situation that I do not think I could ever work for a gerontologist. I know that the situations would be much different, but ever since my experience with caring for elderly individuals it is very hard for me to think about assisting a physician in geriatrics because I worry that someone else might treat the elderly in the same way the owner of the home did. I am a firm believer that the elderly deserve the ultimate care and comfort when going through any treatment and aging in general, but I do not think I could ever work in that environment again.

    2. Heather, I love your Emerson quote, Every artist was first an amtuear. A friend, who also attended the conference, and I were just talking about that subject. In any creative endeavor, periods of verbal self-flagellation are inevitable. When I was painting, we called it the Uglies. That term still works in my writing. I force myself to work through it. Writing everyday (with occasional exceptions) is a rule. I put pen to paper, or fingertips to keys for at least an hour. That usually turns into two or four. My mantra is Just do it. (By the way, I used that term before Niki!)

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