I’m writing this blog post because it is due in two days.
I could have written it two weeks ago, but I didn’t.
I usually write my blog posts on the publishing deadline day. This one is different because there are other things also due this week: cards to write, presents to buy, you know how it is…
You are probably aware that our advice is to use due dates sparingly in your GTD® systems. Sparingly but sometimes.
Sparingly, because if we put due dates on too many items, we go blind to the red flags and beeping reminders and end up ignoring them all until we crash into a deadline unprepared.
Sometimes, though, there are true deadlines, and these need to be known and seen, to form what David calls ‘the hard landscape’: Christmas is coming, and we want to see it on the approaching horizon to ensure we are ready and that everything else is fitted into that landscape.
“At any point in time, knowing what has to get done, and when, creates a terrain for manoeuvring” – David Allen
New GTD-ers can be disconcerted by the idea of not just reacting to the ‘latest and loudest’, as this has been their way of working for a long time. When we suggest putting things on a list to simply do ‘as soon as possible’, there is a look of bewilderment that they might ever actually do something before it ‘goes red’ or someone shouts for it.
A large contributing factor to the ‘stress-free productivity’ we experience with GTD is from making choices about Next Actions and Desired Outcomes soon after something has shown up in our worlds. If we don’t procrastinate about making early decisions of what we need to do about something and what the end goal is, we can get things moving long before deadlines approach, and experience working without that feeling of running out of time.
This is why it is best practice clarifying all the new ‘stuff’ that arrives on our plates within 24 to 48 hours: “when it shows up and not when it blows up”, as David says.
However, deadlines do work well sometimes, and I don’t think we should feel bad for using them occasionally or, indeed, even relying on them. There may be those who could add ‘write a blog post’ to their @computer list and get it done before the deadline, whereas I tend to use the calendar due date to inspire me to write mine. I see that date coming in my Weekly Review® and, so far, I’ve never missed my slot.
I even occasionally actively create ‘real’ deadlines to get me into motion: what better way to write a new public talk than to advertise the talk and start taking bookings with little more than a good title prepared?
I highlight ‘real’ in this example because if you add ‘false’ deadlines in the hope this might motivate you into action and overcome your procrastination habits, you will most likely be disappointed. When I coach people and they have many overdue deadlines, with dates four or more weeks past, it is obvious that the deadlines or due dates they put in their systems weren’t true – and that doesn’t work.
“You can fool everyone else, but you can’t fool your own mind.” – David Allen
I do use (again sparingly) a few due dates where I know they aren’t absolutely real but also clear about the benefit they will bring me if I meet them. Like a game for myself. One example is ‘Complete tax return by end of April’. The real HMRC deadline is January 31st – but I don’t want to be worrying about fitting that in around Christmas!
May I wish you a safe and wonderful festive time and a very happy New Year.