As a rule, I always create deadlines with less time than is needed to accomplish the task. It’s an effective way to make my employees more efficient!
Let’s be honest here — I’m a “burn the calendar at both ends” kind of guy. I don’t respect deadlines, so why should I enforce them? So when my department decides due dates for big projects, I always push back for strategically short deadlines. Why? I’m so glad you asked, for I would love to teach you.
- Unreasonably short deadlines for rigorous tasks makes people work harder. They seem to be able to meet the deadlines, especially when there are harsh consequences if they don’t. Weird. I like to think of this as an exercise in increasing their productivity. The concept is meant to stick with them long afterward, which is why I call it the “stick” method.
- Most schedules have “fluff” time built into them. They are often padded quite a bit with unnecessary extra time. For example, killing off the error budget is an easy way to shift the deadline 10% to the left.
Leadership Vacuum Top Tip
- Deadlines are pretty much always arbitrary. There’s always some more time to pay your taxes from five years ago or catch up on your overdue car payment.
- Get them over with as soon as possible. If you’re going to completely miss a deadline, which happens often around here, you might as well plan on it going into a project than cling to false hopes that you can finish the task in a fair amount of time.
And there you have it — you should now be convinced to make unreasonably short deadlines for big projects. Try it! If your group meets the deadline, then they are lazy all other times. If they don’t, at least you have failed to meet it quickly and it’s no longer hanging over your head.
W. Albert Jameson, IV
Be proactive about creating meaningful deadlines. Plan our your projects to know how much time you reasonably need do it well. Otherwise, you set yourself up to fail consistently.