Procrastination is a common human foible. When facing a big project with a looming deadline, many people tend to postpone their work until the last possible minute. Veteran journalist Christopher Cox, no stranger to deadlines, went behind the scenes at nine organizations, across diverse industries, to learn the strategies they employ to reach their goals on time. His fresh, eloquent analysis – teeming with colorful, expository case studies – illustrates how you, too, can learn to leverage deadlines to your advantage.
Deadlines can be powerful motivators, but they can lead to subpar work. This phenomenon is known as “the deadline effect.”
When he served as executive editor of GQ magazine, Christopher Cox assigned a cover story on rapper Puff Daddy to John, a talented writer who was notorious for missing deadlines. Cox had tolerated John’s tardiness in the past, but the magazine had promoted its Puff Daddy interview heavily, so John’s article had to appear in the April edition. To prod John into action, Cox lied and told him the final deadline was a week before the actual due date. Predictably, John left his work to the last minute and submitted his piece just moments before what he believed was the deadline. This experience opened Cox’s eyes to the persuasive power of early deadlines.
Deadlines can be potent motivators. In 2016, Kiva, a nonprofit that issues interest-free loans to low-income entrepreneurs, realized that 80% of business owners who started online applications failed to complete them. So Kiva experimented with ways to boost completion numbers. The organization sent out reminder emails to applicants. Half of the recipients received ...
Veteran journalist Christopher Cox has written for The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Harper’s Magazine, Wired and Slate. He is a former chief editor of Harper’s and executive editor of GQ.