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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

The Unexplored Value of a Deadline

The Unexplored Value of a Deadline

Imagine a life without any deadlines.

How relaxing would that be? No looming credit card payments. No stressful all-nighters to finish that project at work or school. No procrastination, even! Without a deadline, no one cares if you don’t get to it. You’ll always have the time later on.

It feels so great to not have that stressful moment, right around the corner. When a deadline goes away, a huge weight lifts off my shoulders. In high school, my teachers occasionally gave us extensions on our due dates and everyone responded with a huge sigh of relief.

But imagine, for a moment, what life would be like if an average person had no deadlines for their entire life.

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A Life Without Deadlines

An average person lives for 79 years. The first 1-2 years of anyone’s life is spent as a baby, so let’s make the conscious years of an average person as 77.

An average person has 77 years = 28,105 days = 674,520 hours.

Let’s assume that around half of that time is spent sleeping, eating, and for general hygiene. We’re now left with 337,260 hours where you could really work toward something.

Let’s say you’re thirty. In that case, about 122,640 of those working hours have already gone by.

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I’m not trying to be morbid by pointing out these numbers. But think about this. If this hypothetical, average person have probably wasted most of those 122,640 hours doing nothing, not knowing the pressure of deadlines.

Maybe this scenario isn’t so hypothetical.

A Dream With No Deadline

I have a close friend from college who loves cooking. He has a talent for it, and he’s wanted to have his own restaurant ever since he was just a little kid.

I first heard about his dream of opening his own restaurant when we were both in our early twenties. It surprised me at first because he was so practical. He was headed into the finance world and had part-time jobs to support himself. But when we were just hanging out, he’d constantly talk about his real dream: the kinds of dishes he’d make, the details of the restaurant design, and the uniforms for the staff. He had such a clear vision of what he wanted.

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A few years out of college I met him again. I told him how I’d just built my own website and that I was working on improving the site content. And then I asked him how he was doing with the restaurant business.

That was when he really surprised me. He told me he was still dreaming about it, but had been really busy with work. He had demanding customers, who gave him no time to think about what he truly wanted.

We parted ways then, and I didn’t seen him for quite a few years. Last month, I ran into him again and asked, again, how he was doing. He said that he’d taken a different job, one that’s even tougher than the last one. Again, he’s put his restaurant dream on hold.

I told him, “I really want to try out your restaurant soon.” And I meant it. I know that he has the talent to open a truly exceptional restaurant.

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Why Deadlines Matter to You

My friend allowed his dream to remain just a dream. He never put the pressure on himself to turn that dream into reality. Deadlines have the power to clarify your priorities. They force you to look clearly at what you want, and how to make it happen.

I’ve always set personal deadlines because I want to make sure that what I want, happens. By setting deadlines for yourself, you know what you should or shouldn’t do at any particular moment in order to reach your goals.

How to Embrace Deadlines Positively

Setting deadlines can be applied to different kinds of projects. If you want to get a new car, don’t just think about saving more, make a deadline for yourself with some clear goals — “I will save $10,000 in 5 months.” Then, set out to make a to-do list for what to do in those 5 months:

  • Save 20% of salary each month for the new car.
  • Bring own lunch to work instead of eating out.
  • Find and buy the cheapest gas.
  • Pay for all transactions with cash only — so it feels like all the transactions are really tangible, unlike just swiping a credit card.

At the same time, there are things to avoid during those months, and so there should be a “distraction list” for things that would take away from the car-savings goal:

  • No new video games.
  • No new clothes.
  • Avoid going out with friends and spending too much money on food and drink.

Set a deadline for everything you care about. Then list out what you have to do (and what you shouldn’t do!) within a period of time. And you’ll achieve what you want, every time.

What’s the thing you’ve always wanted to do? Set a deadline to get it now.

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on July 17, 2018

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

What is compartmentalization

To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

Reframe the problem as a question

Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

Choose one thing to focus on

To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

Comparmentalization saves you stress

Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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