It is a beautiful day today in central New York.
It’s one of those days where it’s really difficult to kind of stick to the stuff that I wanted to get done.
It’s interesting because I’m helping a client build out their copywriting team and they’re having a very specific problem– their writers are not getting things done in a timely fashion.
And they were confused because they have “flexible deadlines.” As in, their copywriters are free to fit in the work on their schedule. This sounds like a dream job for a copywriter but I was reminded of this study by Dan Ariely.
Dan Ariely is the author of Predictably Irrational. (Side note: If you do anything that requires human psychology I highly recommend “Predictably Irrational.” It’s great for copywriters or anybody that’s trying to get people to buy things.)
Ariely did a study on deadlines with three groups of students. There were three papers that had to be done for this course. In the first group, he gave deadlines for the papers that were evenly spaced out throughout the term. In the second group he had all three papers due at the end of the semester. But you could turn them in early if you wanted. And the third group got to set their own deadlines but the deadlines were final.
And so, as you can imagine, the group where everything was due at the end of the term with no other deadline did the worst, the group that set their own deadlines did better.
The interesting part is that by a huge margin, the group with the external deadlines (no input on what they were) did the best.
These were MIT students. These were smart people. And so what can we learn here?
The lesson is that we need deadlines. So if you’re someone that hires copywriters… set deadlines for the copywriters. Deadlines that are spaced throughout the project to keep everyone on track.
Any professional is going to try and meet that deadline even if there’s no real consequences.
And, if you’re a copywriter that’s not getting deadlines from your clients you need to set your own deadlines and then you need to have external accountability for those deadlines — whether it’s an accountability partner or a business partner. Self-imposed deadlines don’t work as well as external deadlines.