Deadlines– love them or hate them, our lives are full of them. Sometimes, they feel like a weight hanging over us. Sometimes, they feel like the finish line to shoot for. Sometimes we carefully prepare for them and finish early, sometimes we squeeze in at the last moment, sometimes (most of us) mess up once in a while and miss one, then must deal with the consequences.
Those are externally-imposed deadlines, but it can be quite different (and productivity-enhancing) to make deadlines for yourself and choose to take them very seriously for fun.
My favorite way of using this technique is to combat writer’s block. I will set up a timer for myself and set it for 15-60 minutes. In that time, I must race the clock to produce a complete first draft of whatever I’m doing. It can be an awful or ridiculous first draft, but it must be stand-alone and complete. As I write my first draft of this post, I have imposed a deadline that the draft version will be done before the oven timer goes off, indicating that my chicken pot pie might be done. (I am not actually stuck on this post, but it seemed fitting given my topic.)
Sometimes, rather than a completeness goal, I’ll set a quantity goal and use it for any project I’m feeling stuck on: how many words can I write, how clean can I get this room, how much of this filing can I catch up on, how many ideas (good, bad or indifferent) can I brainstorm for this project. Set a challenge, set the timer and go! Depending on the type of work, often I’ll have to go through and check for accuracy later or otherwise take a slower, more thoughtful pass at the project, but the spate of rapid-fire activity while waiting for the timer to go “ding’ can really get the blood up and a smile on my face. Mental obstacles can just melt away.
What I get out of setting short, intense deadlines for myself is a sense of playful urgency. The sense of urgency combined with letting go of the need to be perfect can be really freeing. This technique is great for getting you unstuck if you feel like you can’t get started or don’t know what to do next.
Do you ever set deadlines for fun to help you get things done or manage your time more effectively? Share in the comments.