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By Vic Cooper, People Experience Lead.

How do you feel about deadlines?

We all have different feelings about deadlines.

For me, they conjure up memories of 6pm on a Sunday before going back to school, knowing full well I still hadn’t done my homework, and that now I would have the spend the rest of the evening desperately cobbling something together to avoid detention (a trait that followed me well into university…I don’t actually remember submitting my dissertation…).

For others, it’s an exciting race to the finish, an opportunity to push yourself and achieve something that you perhaps didn’t think you could. Or for those using it to it’s advantage, it is a time-boxed task, during which you are challenged to complete something tangible or useful within a reasonable, well-judged amount of time.

Don’t get me wrong, deadlines can be a source of real anxiety and stress, and if they are provided with an unnecessarily strict level of inflexibility and the promise of serious repercussions, then they can become unhelpful, and potentially quite damaging. But used in the right way (in a sprint for example!) they can, I find, work wonders for your productivity, which is why Agile frameworks like Scrum really work. Here’s how:

It sharpens your focus.

If you know you are required to complete something in x amount of time, then you are more likely to ask Steve to come back later with his opinion on the match last night, and keep yourself in the flow of the task at hand with fewer interruptions and distractions. You won’t allow your mind to start compiling a shopping list, or wondering who would win if Batman really did pick a fight with Superman… You’re more likely to keep your head in the game and get the job done.

It boosts your creativity.

The additional pressure of a deadline can help unlock your mind and help you do some real out of the box thinking. The need to get something done can help you think of alternative methods, suggest new solutions, and get you in the mindset of making things happen more efficiently. It will get you trying new things, and that can never be a bad thing!

It gets you communicating.

If something needs doing, and quickly, then it’s likely that you will need to reach out to the people in your team, to the stakeholders, to the person you sit next to. You will need to know you’re on the right track, seek advice on new ways of doing things, get help from someone with a different skill set. Keeping communication going and getting valuable input from those around you will not only help you get the job done, but it will help you develop and grow as a professional, and as an individual.

We won’t always hit our deadlines, and that’s okay. Time-boxes need to be reasonably thought-out, and the focus always needs to be on delivering value rather than producing something average to a deadline. But giving yourself a set amount of time can give you that bit of extra drive and push you need to keep a project moving at the right pace.