Tales of a Deadline Junkie

to do list copy I need deadlines.

Without deadlines, I wouldn’t get anything done. We all have to find our best system for productivity. Mine is based upon meeting deadlines.

I could tell you it all goes back to my days in newspapers, but I’d be lying. I’ve always been like this.

(Flashback: I’m in high school, and it’s 1 a.m. My mother is typing my paper – due at 8 a.m. – because my handwriting is unreadable. The next semester, I was enrolled in typing class.)

There’s something about a deadline that makes me kick things into high gear. It strips away all the excuses about why I can’t do something. It forces me to grit my teeth and just dive in.

This push is really important when it comes to things I’m not particularly fond of (like income taxes and grading composition papers).

During one of my “I’ve got to get myself organized!” phases, I was working on a list system. The advice was to make a list of tasks and assign importance to them: A for the things that had to be done immediately, B for those that are important but can wait, C for the ones that needed to be done eventually, and D for the “nice to do” things.

Can you see the problem here? What happened was everything in the B category ended up being an A. The A list seemed endless. The C stuff stayed on the list, but usually hung around until it was no longer relevant. D turned into “you’re dreaming if you think you’re ever really going to do these!”

What I need is a deadline, a time at which things need to be completed – a termination point.

Yes, I know. If I just steadily do things, more will get done and my life would be much better. Sure, my head tells me that. The rest of me says, “Oh, but this over here looks so much more interesting and fun!”

Unfortunately, not everything in the world comes with a deadline, so I have to manufacture my own. This brings me from, “I don’t really want to do this” to “I have to get this done by…”

The hard part is trying to convince myself that these artificial deadlines are real. (“Pshaw! My tax records don’t have to be organized by March 1!”)

It may not work all the time, but it’s the best system I’ve come up with so far. What’s your system?