It sounds strange to think of deadlines as a way to lower stress. For most of us, forces and people outside ourselves impose deadlines on us.
It can make us feel anxious and rushed, especially at our day jobs.
In my work as a lawyer, deadlines created a lot of stress. Because I both wanted to produce the best work possible and finish on time. Often that meant I worked a lot of late hours and weekends.
For that reason, I resisted setting hard deadlines on my writing.
While I do set word count goals and am pretty good at meeting them, when I do things that can’t be easily measured by a number I lean toward simply spending as long as needed to get a task done.
What’s the problem with that?
Getting It Done Or Making It Perfect?
If getting it done to you means turning out a perfect product or the best you can possibly do ever, every project can take nearly endless hours. The result is that I end up working more and more and getting less done overall.
So not giving myself a hard deadline creates more stress and frustration.
Especially when I suspect what I’m doing is not a great use of my time.
What's Worth Your Time
For example, if my audience cares far more about getting my next book sooner than whether I edited every single breath sound out of my podcast, then it makes more sense to stop spending 2 hours a week editing out breath sounds.
Yet it's hard for me to do that because I want the best possible recording out there.
Deadlines Help You Choose
Finally it hit me that when I have external deadlines and multiple projects, I'm always deciding what's worth the time and what's not. Or, put another way, what tasks increase the benefit to a client (or a boss or customer) enough that I need to do them and which ones do not matter much or at all to them. Those things can be sacrificed to get other work finished on time.
Without hard deadlines, though, everything feels equally important whether it is or not.
Because of that, I now not only set deadlines but limit the time I spend on certain tasks if there's something more valuable I could do.
And more valuable includes setting aside time each week when I just relax and have fun. Because to have a happy life, not just a productive one, means enjoying it.
More Deadlines, More Happiness?
And that is the last key to making deadlines you set for yourself lower your stress instead of increase it. If you figure out what tasks to cut to meet your deadline, you can set aside some of that time for yourself.
Because deadlines can prompt you to think carefully and make better choices about your work, using them helps create more time to enjoy life.
I hope that’s helpful as you look forward to the rest of the month!
P.S. While its title worried me (I thought it might be teaching me to cram far too many more things into my schedule) Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours turned out to be very helpful in organizing my time — and freeing more of it to relax. You might find it useful, too.
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