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How Tight Deadlines Can Supercharge Your Productivity

Imagine waking up one morning, your head popping off the pillow in a panic. The report you've been working on is due in three days. You sit down to write, already sure it will fall short of everyone's expectations. A cold sweat forms on your skin. You need more time, no doubt about it. You picture your boss shaking their head, arms folded in displeasure.

Now, imagine another situation. The due date of the report is a month away. You breathe a sigh of relief, thinking you have plenty of time to focus on other work.

This habit of putting off work is known as the ‘Planning Fallacy’. Psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky coined this term in 1979. They found that people often underestimate how long tasks will take. This problem affects everyone, no matter their job or industry.

But there’s a way to beat this problem: set strict deadlines. When you give yourself a tight deadline, your body and mind push harder to meet the goal. With enough practice, this new speed becomes normal. Without a challenging deadline, you stay in your comfort zone and don’t improve. Your mind takes the easiest path, which is usually not the best one.

Think about having a test the next day. What do you do? You study all night to prepare. But what if the test was in 2-3 days? The first thought is, "I have plenty of time to prepare, I can relax now." And you end up delaying your study until the last night.

In your daily life or work, setting tight deadlines for every task helps you finish them on time without losing quality. But you might wonder, "Won’t speed hurt accuracy?"

We often think we're already working as fast as we can. You won’t know how fast you can really go until you push yourself. It’s normal to make mistakes when you first try to speed up. But saying that working faster will ruin your work is just an excuse. You can do most tasks quicker without losing quality. It takes practice and effort. Some tasks might take months to speed up, others just a day.

I was reading ‘My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future’ by Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo. She talks about learning to speed-read as a child. Her local library let members borrow unlimited books, but they had to return them the next day. With so little time to read, Indra practiced speed reading. This skill helped her later in her career.

Having a strict deadline helps you work faster. Create a sense of urgency in your mind. Remember, you don’t have all day, so set a deadline for each task. But don’t just set deadlines—stick to them. Finish your tasks before time runs out. When you do this often, working fast becomes your new normal. Soon, what you think is normal will amaze others. Starting today, try to work faster and smarter.

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