A Day Late and a Dollar Short

July 19, 2007


Restating the date as, “Taxes are due before April 15th” helps retrain your thinking about start date/due date relationships.

If that’s the story of your life, keep reading.

Let’s start with a question: What’s more important, start dates or due dates? Well if we’re talking about prioritization, start dates are king. If you don’t believe me, check out the post office next April 15th, It’ll be an absolute mad house!

That’s the day millions of Americans will try to get their taxes post marked to avoid paying penalties. I used to think people waited because paying taxes is just no fun. But I’ve discovered even people entitled to refunds put it off. Why is that?

It’s because the brain has an interesting tendency of only using the information it’s given. Since we’re told taxes are due on April 15, our brains associate April 15th with filing our tax returns. (even though you could file your return well in advance).

So what are some strategies to help keep you on track when it comes to getting things done?

1) Restate the due date. That helps us retrain our thinking about deadlines. For instance, instead of thinking “taxes are due on April 15th”, try saying “taxes are due before April 15th”. That gets us thinking in the right direction.

2) Figure out what steps are involved, and assign yourself start dates (working backwards from the due date).

Also, Remember to allow plenty of buffer, keeping in mind that Murphy was an optimist. Don’t use the buffer to put off getting started. The buffer is designed to keep you at a comfortable pace, once you’re already started.

3)  Get started! If the activity takes 5 days to complete, you can’t start it the day before it’s due and expect to finish on time.

So remember, start dates are actually more important, because that’s where most of us usually get tripped up. We fail to give ourselves a reasonable amount of time to complete the task, and then we make it worse by putting off getting started. Who needs that?


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