“I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after.” – OSCAR WILDE
How often have you found yourself in a state of anxiety rapidly approaching a deadline or goal that needs to be achieved? Most people have been in this state, some seem to live in this state on a perpetual basis.
There are two ways you can deal with a goal or deadline. You can start early and small, or late and big. ‘Early and small’ means you start at the earliest possible time with the minimum possible investment of time; ‘large and big’ occurs when you start at the last minute and invest a disproportionately large amount of efforts and resources – think of when you were at college and pulled an all-nighter to get an assignment in on time.
In research carried out by Dan Ariely, a leading behavioral economist, students who were starting a class, were told they would have to submit three papers over the twelve-week semester. The deadlines for when these papers were due were to be determined by the individual students themselves, however, they had to be in before the end of the semester. However, the students had to commit to their deadline for each paper and these could not be changed. Any deadline that was missed would be penalized at the rate of one percent off the grade for each day it was late.
Now a perfectly rational student would set all the deadlines for the last day of class. But what if the students procrastinated? What if they knew that they were likely to fail? If the students were not rational and knew it, then they might set early deadlines and by doing so force themselves to start working on the projects earlier in the semester.
The majority of students committed to earlier deadlines and the research found that this ability to commit resulted in higher grades. More generally, it seems that simply providing students a tool by which they could pre-commit publicly to deadlines helped them achieve their goals.
So what does it mean for you if you are looking to achieve a goal or meet a deadline?
There are two things you can do:
1. Make a public commitment as to when you will achieve the goal or meet the deadline before it is due.
2. Make a start now – take your goal or deadline and ask yourself “What is the minimal amount I could do right now to prepare?” Whatever your goal or deadline start now, just spend five minutes and put down your ideas. This will help you to get ahead and to meet your goals and deadlines.
Try this for yourself and share it with your colleagues and team. Just doing something small can help you realize goals and meet deadlines without having to resort to being rushed.
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