Imagine you’re leaving for a long trip one month from now.
If you’re like most people, on the morning of departure you’ll still be scrambling to finish packing and get everything ready.
But if someone put a gun to your head and told you to pack everything you need in the next five minutes, could you do it?
Of course you could. And that is the power of deadlines.
Work is like a gas—it expands to fill its container. You can make it a lot smaller by simply putting it in a smaller container.
So if you have a particular task that needs to be done in a week, it’ll probably take you the entire week to get it done. But if you impose a strict deadline and limit yourself to two hours…
Well, you’ll get it done in two hours.
Back in school, whenever I had a paper or project due, I would put it off until I had just enough time to reasonably get it done, and then for those last two hours or so I would be insanely productive—because I knew I had to finish the paper on time. There was no alternative.
By imposing your own deadlines, you can force yourself into that same state of urgency where you’re productive because you have to be.
Of course, there is a limit to this. You can’t just set a deadline for a huge task and magically get it done in five minutes—you have to be somewhat realistic.
With that said, there is value in limiting the time you can spend on certain things because it forces you to act. You don’t have the option of goofing off or watching cat videos because you only have so much time to work.