Six things about deadlines
- People don't like deadlines. They mean a decision, shipping and risk. They force us to decide.
- Deadlines work. Products that are about to disappear, auctions that are about to end, tickets that are about to sell out--they create forward motion.
- Deadlines make people do dumb things. Every time I offer a free digital document or an educational event that has a deadline, I can guarantee I will hear from several (or dozens of) people with ornate, well-considered and thoughtful arguments as to why they missed the deadline. Never mind that they had two weeks... the last fifteen minutes are all they are concerned with. If it's important enough to spend an hour complaining about, it's certainly important enough to spend four minutes to just do it in the first place.
- Deadlines give you the opportunity to beat the rush. Handing in work just a little bit early is a sure-fire way to tell a positive story and get the attention you seek. The chart below tracks the day (out of 10) that I received each of the more than a thousand applications for the free nano MBA program. Want to guess which day's applications got the most attention from me?
- When we set ourselves a deadline, we're incredibly lax about sticking to it. So don't (set it for yourself, in your head, informally). Write it down instead. Hand it to someone else. Publicize it. Associate it with an external reward or punishment. If you don't make the deadline, your friend gives the $20 you loaned her to a cause you disagree with...
- They have a lousy name. Call them live-lines instead. That's what they are.
Key takeaway: Deadlines are a cheap and useful tool to for yourself (and others) to make a decision and to ship.