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Setting Deadlines Can Push You to Work Harder, but Not Smarter

Setting Deadlines Can Push You to Work Harder, but Not Smarter
From Lifehack - November 13, 2017

When you start your workday, you may welcome the tasks that arise to fill your time. Work comes to you with no rhyme or reason, but you do it. You tackle things as they come, and you turn everything in by the deadline.When you start your workday, you may welcome the tasks that arise to fill your time. Work comes to you with no rhyme or reason, but you do it. You tackle things as they come, and you turn everything in by the deadline.

It may seem that youre successful because you turn in your work on time. The problem is, you dont know how to effectively plan for a days work.

Most people live and die by deadlines

Time is an important factor to consider when youre completing tasks. Many of us chase deadlines or knock out the easiest tasks first to feel a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes, we spend too long on some tasks, and scramble to do everything else.

You may have 10 working hours in a given day, and its your job to do as much work as possible in that time. Its easy to work all day and accomplish very little.

You have to be intentional about priorities. If you only worry about filling time slots and meeting deadlines, you may neglect more important, high-value tasks.

But living by deadlines gets you into trouble

Humans are terrible at guessing how long it takes to complete projects. Guessing is even more challenging when we are developing something new. Were not machines, and our day-to-day outputs dont tend to fit into neat algorithms. When we estimate completion date on a project, we dont take into account the non-project related work that creeps into our schedules. Those emails, meetings, and team member commitments that crop up at the last minute cost time.

We often associate dates and days with certain emotions. For example, do you find yourself as productive on Friday afternoon as you are on Tuesday? Relative estimation of when youll complete a task doesnt take into consideration how feelings affect work.

To top it off, you can give several teams the same task, and theyll all complete them in a slightly different time frame. Their velocity on work turnaround, calculated in points, will vary along with their time frame. Setting arbitrary times for finishing work makes it impossible to use velocity as a selling point in your teams effectiveness unless your team performs significantly better than your competitors.

How to make guesses more accurate

Instead of relying on deadlines and dates to stay productive, you can take a more objective approach. The management technique known as scrum can help you accomplish this. In the book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, the Scrum technique allows you to produce better estimates for planning timelines by using a system of points instead of units of time.

When youre working to solve complex problems, there are usually several teams involved. Its impossible to guess how long it will take to complete a project on your own or communicate your teams needs to other groups. Your role in a project may require little effort, but the teams around you may have to expend considerable effort for their part. You need the input of every team involved to arrive at a reasonable estimation.

Use story points

The most productive teams have switched from setting deadlines to deciding how long tasks will take based on a process known as scrum or agile estimation. They use story points (the input of various teams involved) to understand the relative difficulty of each task.1

Make sure everyones on the same page

Dont complicate the points

Hindsight is 20/20

Stop being a slave for deadline

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