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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.

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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