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3 ways to set artificial deadlines to get sh*t done
As an entrepreneur, you may not always have a boss breathing down your neck, client demands to meet by certain times, or hard deadlines that you need to adhere to.
Many times, it's up to you how much work needs to get done and by when.
Thus, there may be times where you slack off every once in a while.
What's the worst that can happen if you don't finish that blog post by the end of the day? You'll get to it tomorrow, right?
So what if you don't work on your online course today? It's not due until December!
Does it really matter if you don't take that programming lesson today? That shit is too hard anyway, and you'll never become a good software developer.
We've all been guilty of that mindset every once in a while (I hope I'm not the only one), and it really sucks when that happens.
You miss one deadline, then you do it again the next day, and then it's a slippery slope.
So I've learned a few ways to set artificial deadlines to be more productive and get shit done. Check out these techniques that I've used.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management approach where you concentrate solely on your work, with no distractions, for 25 minutes. This is one Pomodoro. After that 25 minutes is up, you take a 5 minute break and do whatever you’d like. You then repeat this throughout your work day.
I try to complete one task by the time one Pomodoro expires. Then I do it again and again for other tasks. If I have a large task to complete, I break it down into smaller tasks that I can fit into one Pomodoro.
For instance, I write a blog post like this one every morning. On most mornings, I try to complete the entire set of blogging tasks - which includes writing on this site, finding an image, including outbound links, republishing on LinkedIn and Medium, and posting to social media - all within one Pomodoro. It's tough and I sometimes rush in the end, but it gives me that artificial deadline to meet.
For a longer blog post like this, I will split it up into one Pomodoro + 10 minutes, or two Pomodoros, depending on my progress.
However many Pomodoros it takes, having that 25-minute deadline and countdown clock (I use tomatotimer.com) staring you in the face helps immensely. Setting that artificial deadline and meeting it feels awesome and gets me going for my next task.
The "Don't Bring Your Computer Battery to the Coffee Shop" technique
If you have a task that you really need to complete within a 2-4 hours (depending on how long your computer battery lasts), head to your local coffee shop with your laptop, but leave your charger at home.
Need to write a blog post you've been putting off? Do you have to crank out that research report? Gotta finish that proposal or presentation?
Leave your home or office with your laptop sans charger and head to the coffee shop, library, or co-working space.
Without a charger, you will be absolutely helpless when your battery runs out, so you'll need to complete your task or project in the time before your charger conks out.
Even though this deadline is "artificially" set by you and your computer's battery life, the desperation and helplessness you feel when your battery gives you a warning is as real as it gets.
I love this technique.
Paying up for missed deadlines
This is one that we're trying here with our team at Thorn Tech.
We each set reasonable deadlines for content that we need to create, such as blog posts, tutorials, case studies, whatever.
If I don't meet my deadline for the first draft of my piece of content, I have to pay $50 to the pot.
I then reset my deadline, and if I don't meet that one again, I owe another $50. And so on and so forth.
We are paying cold hard cash if we slack off.
Proponents of positive reinforcement will shit all over this idea. But those who understand Prospect Theory and loss aversion will understand that many people will choose to avoid losing something of value than gaining something of equal value.
The money will go to something fun, like a company happy hour or new toys for the office, so it's not all bad.
The idea behind this experiment is to see how fear can be a motivator, and how the deadlines that we set can be held up with consequences.
We'll see how it goes!
Combine all three!
You can combine all three of the above to create one super-powerful artificial deadline.
Pick a task that will take under 4 hours (your laptop battery life), come to an agreement with someone to pay them some money if you don't finish the task, head to a coffee shop without your laptop charger, and use the Pomodoro technique to crank out your work.
Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!
What do you think of these artificial deadlines? Are there techniques you use to get shit done? Talk to me in the comments!
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