Warning: Your Deadlines are Making You Procrastinate (for REAL!)

We’re going to take a trip down memory lane today, back to the time I was a newspaper reporter. I was a regular Lois Lane, and I even had my dark-haired, muscly, glasses-wearing boyfriend (that’d be Chris).

Unfortunately, Chris didn’t wear a blue Spandex suit and save the day like Superman. But he did drive a sky blue car that was a total junker and made horrible noises like it was going to blow up at any minute.

But I digress…

It’s no secret that I’m a bit obsessed with productivity, and it started with my newspaper days.

I’m always looking for ways to get more done. Fans of my Ultimate To-Do List know that I expect them to complete 3 mini task per day that lead them closer to their 3 biggest goals for the week.

But when I’m working with my one-on-one clients, I expect them to think beyond their weekly goals. What do they want this month? This quarter? This year?

And this is where the trouble starts.

When your end goal seems farther and farther out, it’s easy to think that the baby steps you’re supposed to take toady won’t make a difference. So you procrastinate.

Here’s a shocking fact about productivity: your task will take as long as the amount of time you give it.

Remember when you were in high school or college, and you would wait until the night before a big exam to study…even if you knew about the exam weeks before?

Or how about putting off your term paper until the last minute when the library and computer labs would be full of other procrastinators?

Of course, I never did that. *cough*

But here’s the thing: your studying would get done. The paper would get written. And you know what? It was good enough. It was fine. The world didn’t end.

When I was a reporter for the university newspaper, I remember hyperventilating when I got my first 6-hour deadline. How the hell was I supposed to interview 2 sources, get the photographer to take some decent shots, write 10 inches of copy, edit it, and submit it to the editor-in-chief in just a few short hours?

But I did it. I cried like a baby the entire time, but I did it. I survived. And then I met the next short deadline, then the next. By the end of the semester, a 6-hour deadline seemed leisurely.

That’s how I learned that long deadlines lead to procrastination. This ties in with new year’s resolutions. If you give yourself the entire year to write a book, lose 30 pounds, or start a business, you’re going to drag your feet…and probably forget about your goal before Christmas.

Action Step: Pull out your planner and take a look at your deadlines for your current projects. My challenge for you is to cut your deadlines in half. I’m not kidding. I know you can do it, and if you’re honest with yourself, you’d spend half the time procrastinating anyway.

The Editor’s Toolkit

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  1. Lori on November 26, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Hmmm…. I’d never thought of this before. This is good stuff! I’m a big procrastinator. I always envision that I’ll do a little bit of something everyday, but I don’t. I usually save it all until the last possible second. And you’re right, somehow it just gets done! I’m going to try cutting some of my deadlines in half this week.

    • Sage Grayson on November 26, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      Just test it out and see how it goes. If I have something due on a Friday, I’ll give myself until Wednesday. I almost always meet the half deadlines, and when I don’t I’m still ahead of where I’d be if I hadn’t shortened them.

  2. Sarah @ Long Island Nerd on November 25, 2013 at 6:02 am

    You are so right! I was guilty of waiting for the last minute for every single paper I have ever written in my life. I started a 15 page full on research paper at 5am and it was due at noon. I hunkered down and had it in by 11:30 and I did pretty damn well on it. I wrote my Master’s thesis in a month basically. It was insanity. I always thought I just thrived on that pressure but the reality is that I just created bad habits for myself! I’m definitely going to try cutting my deadlines in half, I think it’ll be the first step in getting myself more organized and productive 🙂

    • Sage Grayson on November 25, 2013 at 7:38 am

      Wow! That’s impressive. I do so much better when I shorten my deadlines. Instead of waiting until Friday, I’ll try to get something done by Wednesday. It cuts down on the procrastination, and the urgency sparks my creativity. Try it out and let me know how you do!