Steal This Trick: How To Set Realistic Deadlines

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Hey everyone, welcome to another productivity-boosting training with me, Kosio Angelov, founder of High Performance Lifestyle. In this episode, I want to teach you something very, very important and something that you can implement right away to skyrocket your productivity – and that is, how do you set realistic deadlines?

The Power Of Realistic Deadlines

Everybody knows that deadlines are important, and if you want to be productive, if you want to be successful, you have to set deadlines. Either on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, on your long-term projects, deadlines are the key to being productive.

But I’m here to tell you that deadlines by themselves are not enough. You need to be able to set realistic deadlines, because there are essentially three scenarios:

One, you set up a deadline which is way too short. A deadline which is way too short is going to pressure you. It’s going to overwhelm you, and either it’s going to make you procrastinate something because you’re so overwhelmed by the tight deadline, or you might end up actually doing the task within that tight deadline, but at the end of it you’re going to be wiped out mentally, physically, emotionally, and you’re not going to be able to be productive afterwards.

On the other extreme, sometimes we set deadlines which are way too loose. You know that the task is going to take you let’s say 4 hours, but for some reason you don’t like to pressure yourself, so you give yourself an extra hour. If it takes you usually 3, you give yourself a deadline of 4. You end up wasting that 1 hour, because you could’ve done it in 3, absolutely without breaking a sweat – but now, because you gave yourself a loose deadline, you wasted that 1 hour.

I want to show you today the third scenario. How do you set up realistic deadlines – a deadline that’s going to not pressure you and not overwhelm you, but it’s not going to waste your time? That’s what a realistic deadline is, and I want to show you a very easy, very practical 4-step process that is going to allow you to set realistic deadlines.

Parkinson’s Law

But first, I want to introduce you to Parkinson’s Law, because this is the key to setting realistic deadlines.

What is it?

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands in order to fill the time allocated for its completion.

In other words, if you have 3 hours to accomplish a task and you give the deadline of 3 hours, you’re going to do it in 3 hours. If you give yourself a deadline of 4 hours, your work is automatically going to expand to fill that extra 1 hour. And if you give yourself 5 hours, your work is going to expand to fill that 5 hours.

But if you take Parkinson’s Law and you reverse it, you’re going to see how it can help you set realistic deadlines and automatically make you more productive. Here’s how.

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#1. Track Your Time

In Step #1, I want you to track your time. I want you to pick a task that you do on an ongoing basis. Whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, I want you to pick one task and track how much time it actually takes you to do it. This is the first step. This is the important data that you need in order to start setting realistic deadlines.

Let’s say you write a blog post every day. I want you, for 1 week, to track how much time does it take you to write the average blog post? You can use your watch, you can use a time tracking application; there is no shortage of them online. Just pick one that works for you and track your time. Start with how much time does it currently take you to accomplish that one task? Once you have that data, average it out so you have one number attached to that one task.

#2. Reduce Your Time By 15 – 20%

In Step #2, I want you to reduce your time by 15% to 20%. If you figured out that a blog post usually takes you 1 hour, now I want you to set a deadline that is 15% to 20% less. I want you to set a deadline of 50 minutes, and I want you to try to write your blog post in only 50 minutes.

In 9 out of 10 cases, what you’re going to discover is that you’ll be able to do it without breaking a sweat. Your entire system, your entire focus and attention, your mindset, is going to change. It’s going to rise to the challenge, and you’re going to be able to achieve the same task in those 50 minutes instead of 60. You’re going to discover that in most cases, you’ll be able to do it without breaking a sweat, because the average data that I’ve discovered is that people usually extend their deadlines by 15% to 20%. So if you reduce it by 15% to 20%, you’re going to get to a much more realistic deadline.

#3. Find The Sweet Spot

We’re not done yet. I want you to take it a step further. In Step #3, I want you to keep reducing your time till you find your sweet spot – but reduce it by 5%, by 10%. Keep reducing your time until you find a deadline that’s going to allow you not to be pressured, not to be overwhelmed by the tight deadline, but it’s not going to be too big of a deadline so it doesn’t waste your time.

So, I want you to start by reducing to 15% to 20%. You’re going to see how your efficiency is going to increase, and you’ll be able to do it without breaking a sweat. And then I want you to keep reducing, little by little, until you find your sweet spot.

#4. Don’t Go Extreme

But there is one more thing: I want you to not go extreme. Because you might be tempted to go extreme and go from 60 minutes to maybe 15 minutes. That’s not going to work. That is a little too extreme.

Parkinson’s Law works if you reduce your time or expand your time by a little bit. If you have a task that usually takes you 15 days and now you’re like, “Wait, maybe I can use this Parkinson’s Law and this technique to do it in only 3 days,” that’s unrealistic. Chances are, it’s not going to happen – or if you actually do it in 3 days, you’re going to be so wiped out afterwards that you wouldn’t be able to continue doing your work.

Don’t go extreme. Reduce it by 15% to 20%; see how that increased efficiency, how that increased focus works for you; and then keep reducing by a little bit. By 5 minutes, by 10 minutes, by 15, by another 5% to 10%. Keep reducing it until you find your sweet spot without going extreme. That’s why here I want you to start with 15% to 20% and keep reducing it by another 5%. Don’t go by 50%, don’t go reducing it by 75%, because you might end up overwhelming yourself.

This is how you set up realistic deadlines. You start with what you’re currently doing; you reduce it by a little bit; you keep reducing it till you find your sweet spot. You can use this process over and over again, on any and all tasks. Same process. Keep using it until you find your sweet spot, you find that deadline that is short enough to give you that good amount of pressure that keeps you motivated, but long enough not to waste your time. That’s your sweet spot.

And once you find it, keep doing it, keep tweaking it till you find an even sweeter spot, because there is always room for improvement. And that is how you set up realistic deadlines that keep you motivated without wasting your time.

Over To You Now

Now, I have a question for you: where can you put this to use? In what project would you put this to use to see how it works out and how you can create more realistic deadlines? Leave a comment below: