If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ll notice I have a healthy skepticism of deadlines. It’s not that I don’t think that you shouldn’t use them or they are not useful. Far from it. It just seems to me that so many companies pursue a deadline as if it were the end goal. But the deadline is rarely the goal. If you’re submitting an application for college, then going to college is the end goal. If your deadline overrides the quality of these goals, you’ve missed the point. How many times have we heard a variation of this: “I don’t have to write that essay until next week, so this week, I’m going to watch Seinfeld re-runs.“
Works needs to be completed in a way that you produce a quality outcome. The attitude of “I’ll do it later” usually results in hasty, thrown together output. Unfortunately, that is a very real consequence of deadlines: we always think we have more time until we don’t have time. That’s why I have a healthy skepticism of deadlines.
Given this viewpoint, you might think I would also have a healthy skepticism of schedules, but I don’t. Why?
Schedules (and their related cousins routines) are different from deadlines. Instead of putting a false goal in place that forces us to make compromises on our time (i.e. quality of work decreases so I can kick this thing out the door), schedules can create a rhythm of getting things done with the right attitude. Everyone, for example, has a hobby that they don’t have time for. Whether it be carpentry, fiction writing, or athletics, all of us wish we had more time for our hobbies. We envy our friends who do find time to pursue them. The truth is, though, we could create time for ourselves. Even the busiest person can find an hour a week in the wood shop, at the computer, or down on the field. Even my mother, who raised six children and held down a full-time job, found time to quilt.
The same holds true in our work life. Schedules allow us to pencil in time for things we know we should be doing, but think we can’t. Even though I have a billion little Fellowstream tasks, I know it is important to go out there on the web and look at Fellowstream’s competition. It’s a wake-up call to see what they’re doing right, as well as a learning tool to watch them make mistakes. However, it isn’t very high on my priority list. I’ve got blogging, customer service e-mails, networking events, Twittering, promotions…so much other stuff to take care of. Still, I know it’s important to scan the competition, so I make sure, at least once a week, I search for new tools and try them out. I could write this off as “something to do later,” but it’s important, so I make sure it gets done.
Here’s another example I’m sure you can relate to. All of you know someone who should be checking and answering their e-mail more often, but don’t. This, I don’t understand. If you decide you are always going to check your e-mail in the morning or at the end of the day, you’ll always have time. People who say they don’t have time for e-mail are lying. The busiest people I know check and answer their e-mail, including one CEO of a major video game company. This is one busy jet-setting man, yet, he knows it’s important to answer employee concerns, so he schedules time to reply to e-mails.
So yes, I do have a healthy skepticism of deadlines, but I also have a healthy respect for schedules. Used correctly, schedules ensure the “little things” don’t slip through the cracks. They also ensure I have time for non-work things, like spending time with my family, which is also very important to me. So I urge you to think about how you use your time and whether scheduling could improve how much you get done in a day.
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