Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Managing deadlines and avoiding "last minute" working

I recently had a particularly productive week just before taking time off work for holiday.  It got me thinking about how I can use GTD to try to get these productive times to happen more often, rather than just before some time off. 

I have heard David Allen say that many people experience that satisfying feeling of clearing the decks only once a year, before they leave for a holiday.  GTD and the weekly review are a way of capturing that feeling every week by allowing you to take the time to clear the decks and gain perspective on your work by stepping back from the daily grind for an hour.  It was interesting to compare how I feel at the end of each review to how I felt just before I left for holiday, and it was certainly a similar feeling of relief. 

However, the extra boost in productivity during the week is not something that I find easy to recreate without the "deadline" of taking a week of holiday.  I think that many people find that they tend to be a last minute worker and need the pressure of a deadline to get things into gear.  I certainly have a tendency to do this and am trying to use GTD to help me to be more willing to get things done earlier, and therefore reduce the stress of having that looming deadline.  I use the weekly review to see deadlines ahead of time (often at least 4 weeks) and try to at least get started on items early, even if they are finished closer to the deadline.  This approach has certainly reduced my stress levels and given me more thinking time for more complicated projects, something that can be lost if you only start when the deadline is close.

The satisfaction of the productivity boost and being able to tick off a good number of actions from my lists is something that I hope to hold in my memory to give me the impetus to achieve this again, but without the deadline.  It's not realistic to think that I can do this every day of every week - that would lead to burnout - but if I can find a way of entering this mode every so often that would be a great way to push things forward.