Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Set Short Deadlines to Avoid Procrastination

Procrastination causes stress and impedes performance.  Researchers examined the relationship between task completion and deadlines.

Participants were invited to complete an online survey where completion resulted in a donation to charity.  There were 3 groups of participants, and they were given either 1 week, 1 month, or no deadline to respond.  The group with the greatest number of early responses was the no deadline group, followed by the 1-week group.  The 1-month group may have interpreted that longer deadline as permission to procrastinate.

The policy implications for maximizing survey responses indicate that setting no deadline might increase participation.  For individuals, setting short deadlines for task completion may be more effective than longer deadlines.

Takeaway: Because deadlines help us organize our lives, set short deadlines for projects to limit procrastination.

Source Stephen Knowles, et al., Procrastination and the Non-Monotonic Effect of Deadlines on Task Completion, Economic Inquiry, Aug 28, 2021, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/ecin.13042.

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