Yesterday's post on not setting deadlines for your tasks got me a lot of reaction from people saying they have to set deadlines or they don't get things done. And I do agree that even a fake deadline can be a motivator.
What I'm saying, though, is that most tasks do not need this so don't do it. Don't give deadlines unless they are real or you really need it.
So for example, straight from my own To Do list this right now:
Change Evernote and Dropbox passwords
I need to do it, I want to do it. In fact, I want to do it quite regularly. But it doesn't have to be done today, it doesn't have to be done tomorrow. It's in my To Do list and I will see it every time I choose to review my entire list. I'll see it when OmniFocus says it's time for me to review my project called “Mac &c”.
But I won't see it today. I didn't see it today. I just had to go looking for it now, trying to find a good example of all this. (Confession: it was difficult. It seems most everything I'm doing is urgent.)
Book Four Oaks train for Wednesday morning
That obviously has a deadline, doesn't it? If I didn't see that task on my list until Thursday, I'd be sunk. So in theory I would have a deadline of Tuesday and maybe a start date of last Friday when I was asked about going to this school.
I say in theory because I don't know. I just found that task in my list now but I've already done it, I've already booked that train seat, so I just ticked the task as completed and it's gone. Vanished before I could remember to check what the dates were for you.
This is how most of my To Do list work goes now: I check the list, see I've done a lot of the things already, I tick them all off. I used to find something on the list, do it, come back to tick it, pick the next thing, go away, and so on. Rinse, repeat. Now I see what I've got to do today and I just go do it. My life runs by this To Do list yet I hardly look at it. That's one thing I adore: I don't have to be a slave to checking this stuff yet it just still gets done.
And one thing that used to make me come back to check the list every few minutes was how often I would set deadlines. Fake deadlines. Really just the same as writing it all out on a piece of paper and pretending you can get the lot done tomorrow.
Here's a third type of task from my list now:
Write 20,000 words of novel MW by end of May
There's a deadline right there. It's fake. Nobody is waiting for it – well, nicely, they are but not specifically at the end of May. But I am doing a writing buddy thing for April and May with someone who's particularly good at fiction so I want to have a substantial chunk to show her by the end. (I'm on about 13,000 words, thanks for asking.)
If I miss that end of May deadline, it doesn't matter. It's more than just letting myself down since I have told this buddy that I'm doing it. She may not be waiting for it, she may be dreading getting it, but I've told her it's happening so I feel held to account.
That's good. That's planting a stick in the ground and working towards it.
I have no problem setting deadline dates for this fakery.
I just want you to stop doing it for “Buy beans at supermarket” too.