Don’t give yourself a deadline

You’ve got this thing to do, it’s important, you want to do it, you need to do it, of course you’re going to put it on your To Do list and of course you’re going to put a deadline.


Does it actually, really, seriously, honestly, have to be done by a certain date? If you’re delivering something to a client, yes. But that is about the only time you need a deadline. If you work at a place where, say, the holiday rota comes out on a particular day and you’ve got this many seconds to get your request in, fine.

Everything else you do, avoid setting a deadline.

Don’t have a start date, don’t have a deadline date, just have the task.

Because you are going to get it done. It is on your list. You’ll write the task as if someone else is going to do it, fine. It’ll help you to say that it’s a task to do with this project or that: I have tasks for an event I’m producing, for instance. I’ll say the task belongs in that event project. If you’re using OmniFocus, you have to set a certain amount of detail in order to get the task out of your general-purpose, catch-all task inbox. (See part 2 of What’s So Great About OmniFocus.)

That task will then stay out of your way until you go looking for it. Part of using a good, trusted To Do system is that you don’t have to constantly see all your tasks because you elect to review the lot at certain times. It’s a core concept of David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

So it’s there, you don’t have to keep thinking about it, you will get it done.

If you added some artificial deadline, the task would pop up in your face on that date. But it’s an artificial deadline. A contrived one. Odds to onions, you’d see that notification and you would dismiss it. Why wouldn’t you? It isn’t a real deadline, you don’t actually have to do that now, swat it away.

Deadline notifications just became meaningless.

If you’re having to consciously stop and work out whether this deadline is the real deadline, you’re screwed.

I will spend time on my To Do tasks when I’m writing them in. Actually, no, I’ll often chuck half a thought in and then work it up into a proper task when I get home. But once that’s done, once it’s in the list, I don’t want to have to think about it until either I’m ready to do the task or it is time that I have to. Don’t make yourself have to work your list, deciding every day what’s real and what isn’t. Spend that time doing your To Dos.

2 thoughts on “Don’t give yourself a deadline

  1. Pingback: Force your To Do app to have start dates | William Gallagher and The Blank Screen

  2. Pingback: Seriously, no deadlines. Unless.. | William Gallagher and The Blank Screen

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