Many people’s relationships with deadlines are similar. Deadlines are craved yet resented, necessary yet avoided. However, time-sensitive obligations add both structure and suspense to our lives. They inspire both dread and action.
Many people summon the will to do their best work right before it is due, but by then, it’s too late. Long-time magazine editor Christopher Cox was inspired to write The Deadline Effect after years of overseeing journalists who struggled to get their work in on time. He concluded that the only way we can truly do our best work is by mentally manipulating ourselves to act early and often - to work like it’s the last minute before the last minute.
He does that by implementing soft deadlines with teeth. The term implies that for the due dates to be most effective, they must be accompanied by either reward or punishment because some people are motivated by praise and others by shame. These decoy deadlines became “a way of gaining the virtues of the deadline effect (focus, urgency, cooperation) with none of the vices (rashness, desperation, incompleteness).”
Ultimately, Cox’s mission with The Deadline Effect is to show us how to make deadlines more friend than foe.