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Christmas and the Absolute Date

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Millions of people all over the world rush to complete final purchases before the stroke of midnight. It’s the biggest retail deadline of the year, which raises the question: Do deadlines make us more productive?

The intensity of the holiday season is caused by a fixation on December 25th. Every decoration must be completed by this date, every gift must be acquired, every Christmas card stamped and delivered. We privately measure success and failure by what we accomplish before this day. Christmas isn’t just a holiday, it’s also a stressor.

Here are a few choice quotes on the topic of deadlines:

A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all. – Rita Mae Brown

A perfect method for adding drama to life is to wait until the deadline looms large. – Anonymous

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.  -Douglas Adams

consulting stress

© Flickr user roveana

Some people will insist that they appreciate the pressure of an absolute date, as it provides an easy way to measure progress. Others will claim that without a deadline they would have a hard time being motivated. But ultimately, deadlines are extrinsic factors. They are external, not internal. We may try to join our families before Christmas Eve, but that time would still be meaningful if we arrived an hour or day later. After all, the real goal is not meeting the deadline but spending time with loved ones.

When you’re wrapping up your own holiday seasons, remember that deadlines are not as important as results. If a flight is delayed, you will still arrive. If cards are not addressed on time, they will still eventually be delivered. The most productive way to spend the holidays is not obsessing over the time remaining but enjoying the time together. That’s the source of the joy of the season. Anything else that takes away from that joy causes unnecessary stress and can turn the holidays into a time that you dread, instead of the most wonderful time of the year.

If you can find a way to focus on the result instead of on the absolute date, then not only will stress be decreased, but it will be much easier to successfully achieve your goal. You shouldn’t stress to send gifts on time so they arrive when they’re supposed to, you should look forward to giving friends and family something that they’ll enjoy. You shouldn’t stress about being somewhere for the holidays even when unforeseen factors stand in your way, you should be excited about seeing loved ones and bringing them joy during the holiday season. When you focus on the correct goals, you’re able to use your abilities to best achieve excellent results.

This holds true in the workplace as well. Over-emphasizing deadlines can lead to substandard results. If the main focus is on a due date instead of the thing that is due by that date, work can become rushed. If the focus is on the result, and if you’re truly excited about achieving that result, the work should not only get done at the right time, but should be even better thanks to decreasing stress and putting your focus in the right place.

Unfortunately, most of us have been shopping on Christmas Eve. We’ve seen the stress as people try to fight through crowds in order to snag those last minute gifts. Likely we’ve been stressed as well. No matter what you may say about the motivation the absolute date of December 25th provides, last minute shopping on the night of the 24th is an experience you’d be wise to avoid in the future.

If you’re interested in transitioning your business from having a focus on absolute dates to focusing on the real goals that matter, contact the business consultants here at Accelawork!

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