I hate deadlines, but I also need them

Throughout my life so far, I have had a clear arch nemesis: The deadline. It haunts my dreams through the notification of an email, a glance to the calendar or a message from my friend. The deadline is ever present. But do deadlines hinder the quality of what we produce or do they help to keep us organised and away from procrastination?

From what I’ve discovered during my degree, there are two different people when it comes to deadlines: Those who organise their work and ensure they have completed their submission long before the deadline. 

There are also those like myself who end up in a blind panic 48 hours before a deadline having to squeeze inspiration and creativity out of my tired mind. But are they good or bad? Let’s have a look at some of the arguments for and against deadlines. On the one hand, they can fuel creativity. This is because knowing you have a specific time to hand in an essay, submit a presentation or complete work can help you stay focused and avoid procrastinations, certainly the case in external deadlines rather than ones you set for yourself. I often find if someone has set me a deadline then I’ll feel indebted to them to ensure the work is submitted on time and to the best of my ability. 

However when it comes to myself, I tend to grant far too much flexibility. Let’s just say the first draft of a novel I’d planned to complete by Christmas is somewhat behind schedule – I mean I’ve barely started.

So, deadlines aren’t all that bad, right? Well, it’s not as simple as that. As I was looking into the matter, I came across a quote from Professor Richard Boyatzis on the website, Fast Company. He suggests  “you show me somebody who says ‘I’m an adrenaline junkie, I perform my best under stress’, and I’ll show you an idiot.” For me, this rings true. If I want to produce something of quality, I tend to take my time with it, rather than trying to rush it to the extent that it hinders my overall writing.

Furthermore, there’s the issue of mental health. A little bit of stress and anxiety can help us when it comes to our work, helping to ensure we’re organised and mapping out what we need to do. However, what happens if one misses a deadline? Or worse still, procrastinates for days – maybe even weeks – until the deadline looms and we have to write a 2500-word essay in well under 24 hours. This can lead to a negative spiral that could cause feelings of anxiety or depression, detrimental to our mental health.

In short, only one conclusion can be drawn from this question : it depends on the person as well as the type of deadline. They can be great for some people and damaging for others. And for me, they are something of an anti-hero. I hate them with a passion, and yet wouldn’t survive without them. Who would? 


About Author

Thomas Manning

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January 2022
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