The Fantastic Life

If You Want to Meet That Deadline, Play a Trick on Your Mind


In my quest to always be more efficient, productive and goal-orientated, I ran across the below article from the beginning of the year that has some great suggestions about how to trick ourselves into meeting deadlines. Here are a couple quick items:

1. Use color in your calendar.  Last year, we added color to my Outlook calendar.  I have found it to be very interesting for organizing the different types of work and exercise in my day, and for what my mind associates with each color.

2. Do something immediately when you set the deadline.  Get the ball moving right away.

3. Set an interim deadline for this month even if it is just a piece of the project.

Try one of these tricks today, and see how it helps your productivity.

Rule #5 from my book The Fantastic Life: Get a Win

When you accomplish something, no matter how small, you are motivated to keep going. One win can lead to another, and so on and so on. When you know you have something you want to accomplish, put yourself in a position to achieve it. Whether it’s color coding your calendar or some other trick, start setting yourself up to win today.


If You Want to Meet That Deadline, Play a Trick on Your Mind


JAN. 3, 2015

It’s just a few days into the new year. How are you doing on your resolutions? Wait: Have you even started on them yet?

Recognizing that the hardest part of many tasks is beginning them at all, two researchers have sought to determine whether certain outside cues can jump-start us toward reaching our goals. Such cues, which manipulate our perception of time, are simple yet effective, according to a recent article in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In one study, conducted in 2010, the researchers asked two groups of farmers in India to set up a bank account and accumulate a certain amount of money by a deadline, offering extra money as an incentive. One group was approached in June, with a deadline of December that year. The second group was approached in July with a deadline of January the next year.

The farmers in the first group were more likely to set up an account immediately, even though both groups had the same amount of time. That’s because the deadline was in the same year as the assignment and therefore seemed more like the present, said Yanping Tu, a Ph.D. candidate at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. She performed the research along with Dilip Soman, a marketing professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. (Lest you think that only farmers in India would benefit from this approach, the two researchers also found similar results among undergraduates and M.B.A. students in North America.

So the inventors of the New Year’s resolution were on the right track when they had people set new goals on Jan. 1 rather than Dec. 31. But clearly that’s not enough, since the past is littered with unachieved resolutions. Fortunately, there are other time-related cues that can give people that in-the-present feeling.

In a separate study, the researchers also found that people were “more likely to start working on a task whose deadline is in the current month than in the next month,” even though the number of days to finish the task was the same, Ms. Tu said.

Color can also influence the perception of time, she said. She and Professor Soman found that simply by coding a stretch of calendar days in the same color — say, blue — with an assignment occurring on the first “blue” day and the deadline set for the last “blue” day, people were more likely to complete the tasks. Once again, this serves to make the future deadline seem more like the present. (Managers, are you listening? Get out your crayons.)

Research into procrastination has noted that people have much less concern about their future selves than their present selves — and are willing to sell their future selves down the river for the sake of present ease. But when the present marches into the future, and we are confronted with the work that our past selves refused to do, we pay the price in unmet deadlines, all-nighters and general torment.

So if a few little tricks can manipulate us into thinking that time is of the essence, why not give them a try?

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