Deadlines and performance

Everyone can perform when a deadline in work is looming. For some reason, the time challenge of a production milestone is a major motivator for work productivity and performance. The question also is, is it our best work? It doesn’t mean other days people are outright lazy, but the same high priority motivation isn’t there. Whilst this works in the short term, it is only made possible by developing our skills and finetuning our craft in the lesser pressure days.

Think of it this way, a runner may be able to find a higher gear and perform at their best on a big competition day. But to ultimately be a champion he or she needs to still train and form a baseline condition and work on technique in order to beat the competition. In my view, the same holds true in work performance.

When we are striving to deliver outcomes, having a certain mastery of your work is required. A deadline teaches you a lot about your skills and your lack of them when you are entering an embarrassing situation of letting people down. I know when I first started my career, that some of the projects I worked on were a stretch and on a few thankfully rare occasions I had to let people down, because I simply didn’t know how to create what was needed for them. Still, to this day, those moments make me feel bad and I wish I could have had hindsight knowledge. This is also what drives me to continue learning and improving, to make sure I can handle what comes my way and we now also hire in specialists to cover these jobs.

Re-creating time constraints and milestone or challenges is often how we work in gamification design to create a similar condition to the deadline. On the non-deadline days, small nudges to keep going and to keep making progress before the big delivery day hits is what happens very often. Think of it as a feedback dashboard in a game, where you see level, time, resources etc all in an easy to follow format.

I often find the day after a super productive day or just after the deadline, the motivation to get started may be lacking a bit. In those days, I set challenges and minimum acceptable levels of productivity. I ask the question, what would I have to complete to be happy with today’s work output? Setting a long list on these days doesn’t work, hence the minimum level for me the number tends to be which three items completed off my list would give me the satisfaction of having done enough today. On great inner motivation days, this isn’t necessary, I just tackle the whole list head on and it would be rare if I just hit minimum levels.

Gamification is as much a mindset as it is a design method in my opinion. For me my brain has worked that way for years, it is what has helped me achieve academically, in sports and in work. It takes a quest based mindset to improve and a benchmark system to compare against even if it is all residing within the one person. Gamified systems help us visualise the resources, the levels, the output and can keep us going for longer, for better quality or more productivity, whichever your goal is.

Measuring performance is a mixture of the goals we set and then the environment we play in. Benchmarking or measuring against others gives relevant feedback. Entering competitions gives you an idea of your level and potentially the additional resources required for you to level up your performance. Deadlines are for work, what competitions are for sports.


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