Short on time? For the key benefits of setting deadlines, stick to the bold text and the conclusion.
Top 3 benefits of setting deadlines:
- Increased motivation and performance
- Better organisation
- Superior sense of accomplishment and happiness
How do you feel about deadlines? I bet you have mixed feelings about them – that’s normal. A time limitation to complete a task might be annoying but it helps to keep our lives structured. Good deadlines ensure that we finish work on time. Although many of our deadlines are set by others, the benefits of deadlines and finishing what we start can’t be denied.
Benefit 1: Increased performance and time-efficiency
Deadlines give significant performance boosts
Working with a deadline in mind often causes stress. Stress, however, isn’t always detrimental; it can be positive too. Positive stress can enhance your focus and motivation. When your feelings of stress are within control, you will actually receive a psychological or physical performance boost.
According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, ‘a relationship between arousal and behavioral task performance exists, such that there is an optimal level of arousal for an optimal performance. Over- or under-arousal reduces task performance.’
In other words, an increased sense of urgency created by deadlines can improve your performance and motivation up to a certain point. However, if the task is too difficult and the probability of success decreases with each passing moment, performance drops. With too much work to be done in too little time, you might feel overwhelmed and lose motivation.
What do we learn from this? Deadlines need to be reasonable. Setting various achievable deadlines, or milestones, is a great way to boost your motivation and performance levels.
Especially setting your own deadlines has proven to be favourable for better results. People who set their own reasonable deadlines tend to feel in control. This leads to higher motivation and deeper focus on the task at hand, finally resulting in better performances and superior outcomes.
Deadlines bolster your time-efficiency
This probably isn’t news for you but read on; there’s a lot more to it than you’d expect.
Our brain likes procrastination. Scrolling through your social media feed, for example, releases dopamine which makes you feel happy. However, the fear of unpleasant outcomes by missing deadlines often outweighs the pleasure of procrastination. That’s why it’s beneficial to set your own deadlines.
Even very responsible people might not finish what they started if they don’t set time limits. The problem isn’t that they aren’t working, it’s the opposite. They never stop working.
If you don’t have a deadline to stick to, you’ll always come up with new ideas. You’ll always find things that you want to improve. Perfectionist you will always beat punctual you. Setting a deadline prevents this from happening and will even benefit your focus and decision making abilities.
This idea is nicely summed up in Parkinson’s law: ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ (Merriam-Webster). This works both ways. If you set more time, you’ll find more things to do. If you set less time, on the contrary, you’ll often get straight to the point. Set deadlines accordingly.
Reasonable deadlines lead to better motivation and more time-efficient work with increased performance as a result.
Benefit 2: Better organisation and higher standards.
Firstly, completing assignments on time allows space to find and solve mistakes. If you hand something in last minute, there are no opportunities for review. If you hand in early, you might get the opportunity to filter out embarrassing mistakes.
Secondly, sticking to your deadlines will improve your standards. While procrastination might boost your creativity, you won’t have enough time for thorough research. So, if you create enough milestones and make sure you meet them, you’ll leave yourself with enough time to go the extra mile. Not only will you avoid mistakes, but you’ll also create a more meaningful project.
Thirdly, setting milestones and deadlines keeps your work organised. If deadlines are scheduled well, you’ll have more productive days.
To increase your success using deadlines, never set two big deadlines on the same day. You might feel overwhelmed by it and complete neither. Saturday and Sunday should also be avoided at all costs to allow yourself some rest and time to disconnect.
Deadlines improve your organisation and help prevent unforeseen circumstances.
Benefit 3: Boosted sense of accomplishment
Every deadline you meet is a small win. Not only did you complete your goal, you also did it on time! You have every right to feel proud. This sense of accomplishment isn’t something to be neglected. Although it’s part of your job to meet the deadlines, you should celebrate them to stay motivated for deadlines ahead.
Having this in mind, it’s beneficial to set several milestones. Motivation increases when our deadline is in sight and we can clearly observe the differences that our actions are making. More milestones mean that there will always be a goal within sight and you’ll always have those mini celebrations. When you’re going to the gym, don’t wait until you reach your goal. Celebrate every extra rep.
Several studies suggest that people value near-future rewards over distant-future rewards, even when the distant-future reward is considerably larger. So the sum of several small, short-term accomplishments is often higher than one big accomplishment.
Set multiple deadlines to sustain motivation and finish what you started.
The benefits of deadlines: an example
In practise, you could set your own milestones for completing an assignment with a deadline set by your superior. You’ll feel more in control of the different aspects of the assignment. This will increase your motivation.
Secondly, you’ll feel better organised. Having divided the whole into multiple digestible chunks, you’ll have a clearer picture of the challenges ahead. Another benefit of this is that you’ll always have a milestone within sight. As goals get within reach, you’ll feel more focussed and motivated.
Finally, ticking off each milestone will leave you with a sense of satisfaction. After each completed milestone, you’ll feel a small motivational boost to propel you on unto your next goal.
Deadlines, especially when divided into achievable milestones, are incredible performance enhancers. These time limitations will give you a sizeable motivation boost which will facilitate your flow. Setting the correct deadlines also helps to stay on track of your goals and deliver high-quality work. Finally, deadlines boost your self-confidence. Meet the deadline to reward yourself with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment.
Now that you’re aware of the benefits of deadlines, it’s time to set good deadlines for yourself!
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Written by Kjell
Reviewed by Loki
Sources and further reading about the benefits of setting deadlines:
- Burnett, Dean, The Guardian— https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2015/apr/20/the-power-of-deadlines-voter-registration-election
- Chron, Lori Sourd — https://smallbusiness.chron.com/benefits-deadlines-projects-44815.html#:~:text=More%20commonly%2C%20employees%20need%20milestones,for%20everyone%20on%20the%20team.
- Cohen, Ronal A., Springer — (Yerkes-Dodson Law) — /link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-0-387-79948-3_1340
- Liberman, Nira & Förster, Jens, Guildford Journals, — https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/pdf/10.1521/soco.2008.26.5.515
- Lindberg, Sara, Healthline — https://www.healthline.com/health/eustress#eustress-examples
- Weibell, C. J., Principles of learning –https://principlesoflearning.wordpress.com].