What is a work project without a deadline? Whether you're a veteran of your industry or an emerging entrepreneur, the importance of having a deadline is obvious: deadlines help you achieve both small and large goals, help you cross off all the items on your to-do list, and aid in keeping your productivity levels in check.
But recent findings from a study by the Journal of Consumer Research say deadlines may have the power to challenge your productivity levels, leaving you more inefficient than you would like or realize.
Published in May, the study, "When an Hour Feels Shorter: Future Boundary Tasks Alter Consumption by Contracting Time," found that people facing upcoming appointments, deadlines, meetings, and other similar time boundaries may procrastinate on a long-time chore in order to work on tasks that take a shorter amount of time. If you have only a certain amount of time to work, find yourself making a call instead of writing that long and important report, or if you put off preparing for a big meeting in order to schedule even more meetings...you may be using deadlines and other scheduled items to your detriment.
When confronted with "future boundary tasks," the study says people will "(a) perceive they have less time than in reality; (b) perform fewer tasks as a result; and (c) are less likely to attempt extended-time tasks that can be feasibly accomplished or more lucrative."
In one test included in the study, 158 undergraduates at Washington University were told they had either a strict five-minute window until an appointment or "about five minutes to do whatever you want." The groups were given a same five-minute period, but it was the latter group that accomplished 2.38 tasks, while the hard-deadline group completed only 1.86 tasks.
The big picture, according to co-author Stephen Nowlis, is this: "...setting all these deadlines seems like a good idea. But too many deadlines makes you use your time less efficiently."
Think about how you best manage your time, and how often you use scheduling as an excuse to avoid your most important tasks. Consider leaving a portion of your day dedicated to extended-time tasks, and watch your productivity levels soar.