Deadlines

You see, I’m pretty good with deadlines. I don’t tend to procrastinate much. Deadlines are deadlines and if there is one on the horizon for me I can go as far as lose sleep over it. Yet, sometimes I do miss deadlines and sometimes I do procrastinate (and I hate myself for it). Like with this psychology-related article in The New York Times on deadlines. I’ve been planning to read the very short piece for, like, a week and a half. And I finally got to do it today only because this was the only unread message in my email box, and it’s been bugging me for, well, a week and a half.

And once I read it, it’s been an easy and enjoyable read and I don’t understand what kept me so long. This is, I think, the problem of so many people. When we think of a task, it seems horrible and all negative, and hard, and boring, but once we actually get around to doing it, it often turns out to be waaay less horrible than we predicted and sometimes it’s even FUN.

This is the paradox of deadlines. When we have to do something, we immediately perceive it as something that has been imposed on us and, thus, something we do not inherently want. That trick our minds are playing on us is related to both initiative attribution (when we think it’s not our idea and thus we hate it, and we love it once it’s ours) AND our inability to predict our future emotional experiences – we often think we’d like this and hate that, but research proves that we are as good at such predictions as a chance. We just don’t know what’s good for us. We are clueless.

Eventually, we like everything we do as long as it’s our idea. We might admit some of the most crying mistakes, but deep inside we still think that “it was a good idea at the time” or “it was a useful experience.” This is why we have to be aware of the deadline bias and stick to rational assessment of what’s good for us, instead of relying on our unreliable emotions. Deadlines are for meeting them and promises are for keeping them.

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