Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Importance of Deadlines

Something about deadlines makes you get stuff done. You have a project due in 24 hours and it’s not started, you work your butt off and voila, it’s finished. Even though if it were two days before the project was due you wouldn’t have been able to finish it in one day. 
There’s a science behind it, which I think is kind of cool. The science says that people have a certain amount of discount for the future. That is they value the present time more than what they would do in the future. So having fun now instead of doing work always looks like a better option, even though it might hurt in the long run. Anyway, people can’t really control their discounting, but they can control how big penalties are if they discount too much. Deadlines, imposed by yourself or others, come attached to a penalty which is so bad that doing work in the present is actually better than doing work in the future.
It makes sense. If you had five years to write a paper, would you write it right away? Or wait?
Now apply that to EDs.
My new year’s resolution was to binge less than half the year and to purge less than half the year. So each month I keep track of my progress and I have those thirty days to eat normally 16 days. If I don’t meet my goal at the end of the month it means I’ve gained weight because I’ve binged more days than not, and it means that I’ve failed in my goal. Those two penalties are somehow enough to keep the binging at bay. The first half of this month was littered with binges. And there was a week and a half where every day was a failure. When I came back from break and looked at my behavior calendar, I noticed that if I wanted to keep my goal I would have to keep the binging down to three times in the remaining two weeks. That’s a tall order for someone who’s been on a binge spree. And yet somehow I did it. I had almost an entire week without binging. Maybe not just because of my deadline, but it definitely factored in. If I make it through today without binging I will have completed my goal exactly.
I guess what I’m saying is that if you really want to get something done try setting a concrete deadline and imposing some penalties if you don’t meet it. I mean goals that you know would be good for you if you completed but somehow can’t make yourself do. For me, the deadline takes away some of the choice to engage in behaviors. I want to purge, but I’m not allowed because I’ll fail the goal. I want to eat the pint of ice cream, but I can’t.
I’m amazed and ecstatic that it’s working for me, so I wanted to share it. 


  1. I love deadlines. I only work well if my goals have time-limits, for anything.
    It's amazing that you can set such a positive goal. I really hope it keeps working for you. Fear of 'failure' is a very powerful thing, but remember to be gentle with yourself.

  2. I hope the day went well for you! You are doing awesome.


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