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Monday
Jan302012

Stop subjecting yourself to the agony of due dates

Received wisdom is that all actions should have a due date. Apparently it focuses people and ensures that the action is done in a timely way.

That would be true if that were the only action the person had or they had sufficient time to do it in amongst all their other tasks. The problem is that most people have far more tasks than the time to do them.

You know the syndrome: all Outlook tasks RED and OVERDUE.

The problem is that using due dates to prioritize is a flawed way to work. It doesn’t help you do the important work it just forces you to do the urgent tasks. Eventually it just leaves you feeling overwhelmed and demotivated.

You can improve your productivity by simply asking yourself - does this task truly have a due date? Most don’t - you think they do, but they don’t. Most due dates are purely arbitrary; made up on a whim with no regard to the relative importance of the task compared with everything else that is happening.

The problem of prioritization is difficult enough without obscuring it with lots of shouting, nagging tasks reminding you that they should have been done weeks ago. The very fact that all your tasks are red and past their due date should tell you something: the world is still turning despite the fact they all overdue. 

If all tasks are given due dates then the ones that truly do have due dates get lost in the crowd. They are more likely to be late.

If you want to be properly productive, stop prioritizing by time and start using a more meaningful method. Prioritize by project or area of responsibility and share the time available in proportion to the importance of the project/area. You’ll do more of the right thing and be happier for it.

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