Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony 40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2019 Updated) How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter 4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid

Trending in Smartcut

1 14 Powerful Leadership Traits That All Great Leaders Have 2 15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful 3 17 Best Careers Worth Going Back to School for at 40 4 Is Memory Enhancement Possible? 12 Ways That Actually Work 5 How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More About Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next