The Power of Tight Deadlines

Have you ever noticed how tasks expand to fit their deadline?

Whether simple task or complex project, they always seem to finish right before their deadline.

They take, well, just as much time as you give them.

Expanding Time = Expanding Projects

Here is a trick question: “How long will that new 6-month project take to finish?”

Answer: At least 6 months.

Why? Because projects fill the time they are allotted.

The interesting question is, “How long would the same project have taken if it was only given 3 months?”

Could the same work have been completed?

Often, especially in corporate environments, the answer is YES.

“Projects and tasks will expand to fit the allowed time even if the full time is not needed.” 

So, why do we let deadlines be so slack?

Maybe it is because we have come to take deadlines for granted. We expect people not to abide by them, so we give outrageously long timeframes in the hope that the work will be completed.

Unfortunately, this often backfires. When the deadline is not met and an extension is granted, an unnecessarily long time has already elapsed.

And of course, that deadline extension leads to another.

The Power of Tight Deadlines

The next time you are setting a deadline, set it for less time than you think the task will take.

By keeping tight deadlines, you will increase your productivity and get more done.

Don’t underestimate the power of tight deadlines…

  • Ignites Creativity – Nothing can spur creativity and imagination like a tight deadline. If you had one month to do that project instead of six, how would you do it? Sometimes the best ideas come from a lack of time.
  • Reduces Wasted Time – It is better to err of the side of too little time. When you keep deadlines tight, you avoid unnecessary slack time in your work and projects. If you underestimate the time needed, you can give yourself more time. On the other hand, if you give excessive time, it will be used up by the work.
  • Encourages Teamwork – Nothing builds relationships like teamwork on a tight deadline. People bond when they work together to meet a common goal or deadline.
  • Builds Confidence – You stretch your limits when you accomplish something you did not think you could do. Finishing something in less time than you thought possible builds confidence to do even better next time. Often, you are stronger than you think.
  • Finishes Early – Finishing in less time, allows for review (and even re-work). It also reduces stress. If that report is due in 1 month and you finish it in 3 weeks, you will have extra time to reflect and even improve.
  • Makes the Impossible Possible – Sometimes it takes a tight deadline to make the impossible happen. When you combine the above powers, you might be amazed at what can be accomplished in a short time frame. Deadline pressure can make magical things happen.

Give Yourself a Little Less Time

The next time you are setting the deadline for your work or projects, keep it tight.

Give yourself a little less time than you think may be needed.

You might surprise yourself. (Or your boss…)

You just might make “Mission Impossible” into “Mission Accomplished.”

Do you keep your deadlines tight?

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38 thoughts on “The Power of Tight Deadlines

  1. I believe tight deadlines play a major part in the success of the Agile software development methodology – particularly when running tight sprints with an expected code release at the end.

    And I think this is why I tend to drill down to the finest detail in pretty much anything I do – in order to break it down into a number of tasks that are easily completed in a short timescale.

  2. I believe tight deadlines play a major part in the success of the Agile software development methodology – particularly when running tight sprints with an expected code release at the end.

    And I think this is why I tend to drill down to the finest detail in pretty much anything I do – in order to break it down into a number of tasks that are easily completed in a short timescale.

  3. I believe tight deadlines play a major part in the success of the Agile software development methodology – particularly when running tight sprints with an expected code release at the end.

    And I think this is why I tend to drill down to the finest detail in pretty much anything I do – in order to break it down into a number of tasks that are easily completed in a short timescale.

  4. I’m trying to apply this concept daily and limit activities to 15 min, 30 min, or 1 hour blocks. I’m enjoying it so far.

  5. I’m trying to apply this concept daily and limit activities to 15 min, 30 min, or 1 hour blocks. I’m enjoying it so far.

  6. I’m trying to apply this concept daily and limit activities to 15 min, 30 min, or 1 hour blocks. I’m enjoying it so far.

  7. Craig,

    Tight deadlines work, if you know what your next action is (and how you are going to do it). However, I have been in situations, when the deadline was tight and I was totally stuck.

    I was responsible for getting the work done and I was panicking, since I didn’t have barely anyone to help me.

    However, thanks for the creativity part, I was able to move forward. At the same time, I realized that it was the situation I don’t want be in anymore. In fact, I was quite stressed out.

    I guess the lesson was, that one should speak up early enough (to get help), before finding him/herself in a situation like that again 🙂

    Cheers,

    Timo

  8. Craig,

    Tight deadlines work, if you know what your next action is (and how you are going to do it). However, I have been in situations, when the deadline was tight and I was totally stuck.

    I was responsible for getting the work done and I was panicking, since I didn’t have barely anyone to help me.

    However, thanks for the creativity part, I was able to move forward. At the same time, I realized that it was the situation I don’t want be in anymore. In fact, I was quite stressed out.

    I guess the lesson was, that one should speak up early enough (to get help), before finding him/herself in a situation like that again 🙂

    Cheers,

    Timo

  9. Craig,

    Tight deadlines work, if you know what your next action is (and how you are going to do it). However, I have been in situations, when the deadline was tight and I was totally stuck.

    I was responsible for getting the work done and I was panicking, since I didn’t have barely anyone to help me.

    However, thanks for the creativity part, I was able to move forward. At the same time, I realized that it was the situation I don’t want be in anymore. In fact, I was quite stressed out.

    I guess the lesson was, that one should speak up early enough (to get help), before finding him/herself in a situation like that again 🙂

    Cheers,

    Timo

  10. @shobbbo Ah, yes, the parkinson law. I was wondering whether Parkinson had to do with the disease… so I searched for it, and no, it doesn’t : )It has its origins with Cyril Parkinson, which he derived from his experiences in the British Service (thanks Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson's_law) There is a downside to this approach – if you don’t get it done in time. It can be discouraging. I think we need to strike a balance between being aggressive and being realistic.

  11. @shobbbo Ah, yes, the parkinson law. I was wondering whether Parkinson had to do with the disease… so I searched for it, and no, it doesn’t : )It has its origins with Cyril Parkinson, which he derived from his experiences in the British Service (thanks Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson's_law) There is a downside to this approach – if you don’t get it done in time. It can be discouraging. I think we need to strike a balance between being aggressive and being realistic.

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