Image Description

The Science of Increasing Productivity: The Power of Deadlines

Hello again. A couple years back, a friend of mine called me and asked if I wanted to drive to San Francisco the next day for some fun. I very much wanted to go, but I had a project to get done—and by my estimation, it was going to take a couple more days to complete it. Yet, I said to my friend, if I miraculously get everything I need to get done today, I'd love to go. Well, guess what? A miracle occurred. I got two days of work done in a single day. To do that, I ate lunch at my desk, I didn't answer my phone, and I even skipped surfing the internet. But lo and behold, my project got done in a single day. I proudly called up my friend at the end of the day and said, "Let's go to Frisco!" We ended up having a great time, but more importantly, I learned that when I have a realistic deadline to motivate me, miracles of getting stuff done can truly occur.

There's a well-known adage known as Parkinson's Law that states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." For example, If a meeting is scheduled for an hour, it tends to take an hour. If you give a project two days to complete, it somehow takes exactly two days. But a realistic deadline can help you overcome Parkinson's Law. A sensible deadline can focus your mind and help you become free of needless distractions.

In a study called, "Procrastination, deadlines, and performance," the authors showed that realistic deadlines both increase performance and decrease procrastination. Unfortunately, many people have a negative view of deadlines, or they use them in a way that only adds to their stress. Creating deadlines that work for you is, like many things, a skill that can improve over time. It's important that you try to create realistic deadlines for yourself—ones that you can succeed at, but at the same time are not so easy that they're effectively useless. This can take practice.

In addition, there are different types of deadlines. For example, a short term deadline might be to give yourself a deadline to complete a certain task by the end of the day, whereas a long term deadline might be to complete a certain project by the end of the month or end of the year. In general, I find that deadlines are most effective when they are for a week or less time period. Short term deadlines like that help to focus your mind and keep you motivated.

I enjoy giving myself realistic deadlines. There's a sense of achievement and even fun when I am fully engaged in attempting to meet a deadline. And when done properly, a realistic deadline can increase your productivity by leaps and bounds.

So right now, sit up straight in your chair, take a deep breath, and then let it out with a long, slow sigh.


For now, I'd like you to choose a goal or project you're working on and ask yourself, "What's a slightly difficult, yet realistic deadline I can set for getting this goal or project done?" That's an important question, so I'm going to repeat it. What's a slightly difficult, yet realistic deadline I can set for getting this goal or project done? Feel free to set a deadline for just part of a project done. For example, you might write, I will complete reading the first 200 pages of my book on investments by one week from today.

A sensible deadline can act like a higher gear in a car. It can lead to greater focus, speed, motivation, and even enjoyment. It automatically weeds out distractions, and helps you get done what you need to get done. So once again, choose a project or task at work and ask yourself, "What's a slightly difficult yet realistic deadline I can set for myself for getting this goal or project done?" Write your specific task or project and deadline down on paper now, and get going and get motivated

In our next session, I'm going to guide you in a one-minute method that will both greatly reduce your stress and increase your productivity. Talk to you soon.

Image Description
Written by

Jonathan Robinson