Thursday Time Tip: Better Productivity with Annoying 5-Minute Deadlines


Sometimes time management is about large, sweeping goals and major projects that affect our lives. Other times, it’s just about a quick trick or two that will help us have a little fun and shave some minutes off of your workday.

This Thursday Time Tip is definitely one of the latter – a fun technique that can give you a little drive to close out some tasks.

Utilizing the End Effect

In a previous post, I had mentioned switching between tasks as outlined in Get Everything Done: And Still Have Time to Play.

Forster’s method is not only to alternate tasks but also to add in one more step: to put deadlines on yourself – five minutes perhaps until you move on to the next task.

This takes advantage of what Forster calls the “end effect.” Put simply, deadlines give us the motivation to get done in time. Otherwise we’ll fill up the entire time allotted (Also known as Parkinson’s Law).

Annoying Myself

This effect, for me, was compounded when I switched tasks. Because sometimes it was frankly a pain to get out of one mental space and switch tasks to another.

By putting myself up against annoyance, I was motivated to get to certain milestones on each project. But the key is that I did this in a spirit of having fun and trying to beat the clock.

Of course, this only works if a few conditions are present. You need to actually stick to your self-imposed deadlines, for instance.

I wouldn’t think this would be a long-term solution for me, but perhaps it’s a quirky tip that can give you that little extra boost at the end of a long day.

Photo Credit: TheDigitel Beaufort

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  • Kari Scare

    Deadlines definitely motivate me. I also find that changing locations helps switch tasks and motivates me to focus on the next deadline. Most of my deadlines are self-imposed, which means I can also change most of them if I want. The problem with that is that it’s easy to change them when I don’t meet them. So, I’ve had to gradually become disciplined enough to value my own self-imposed deadlines as much as one an editor or client gives me.

    • Loren Pinilis

      Yeah, the authenticity of the deadline is paramount. You really have to stick to it and feel it in order for it to effective. Ultimately I think one must care enough about the consequences – even self-imposed ones – to move forward.

  • Steve

    Time constraints definitely motivate me. When I know that I need to get something done by a certain time, I tend to speed up and get more done. It’s when a goal is open-ended that I seem to put it off. My mentality is that “there’s always more time” so I just linger on it. But when I put a self-imposed deadline on it, I get that charge and drive to actually do it to meet that time restriction.

    • Loren Pinilis

      Ah, it’s good that you realize that. Now you can respond appropriately!

  • Barb Raveling

    Loren, have you ever tried the app, skedpal? Melanie Wilson introduced me to it and I love it. One thing I like about it is that it has you factor in how long it will take you to do a job and put a deadline on it – these are two things I often forget so it’s helpful. I wasn’t sure what you meant by a 5 minute deadline though.

    • Loren Pinilis

      I haven’t tried that one. I might have to check it out 🙂

  • Lea

    I think deadlines are a great motivator for everyone. When you don’t pay attention to the time spent you can go on forever. And typically you never start because you think you have all the time in the world.

    Putting a deadline on it makes sure that you start and finish in a timely fashion. So it’s good in two ways.

    Depending on what I’m doing, I have strict and flexible deadlines. I know it sounds kind of counterproductive but sometimes I don’t know how long it will take exactly. I do it just so I’m not spending too much time on it.


    • Loren Pinilis

      I know exactly what you’re saying, and I do similar things. Strict deadlines for tasks where I have a fair degree of certainty about how long it will take and flexible deadlines for tasks I’m unsure of.