Blog > The Power of Time Scarcity: How to Use Deadlines to Enhance Focus

The Power of Time Scarcity: How to Use Deadlines to Enhance Focus

Embrace the challenge of limited time
Person working on laptop with clock

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The fast-paced nature of the alternative investment industry demands constant agility to stay ahead. Yet, this relentless speed can often compromise your focus. In a rush to address urgent responsibilities, swiftly transitioning from one task to another, you might struggle to devote quality attention to making strategic, well-informed decisions, effectively managing risks, and seizing opportunities. This fragmented attention can diminish the influence you might otherwise exert.

However, instead of letting the realities of the industry constrain you, embrace the challenge of limited time. Utilize it, along with self-imposed due dates, to refine your focus, boost your productivity, and enhance your success. Here’s how to stay focused at work by leveraging the principle of time scarcity.

The Psychology Behind Time Scarcity

Let’s delve into the psychological underpinnings of time scarcity and its relationship with maintaining focus to comprehend how you can effectively turn time scarcity into an advantage for your improvement.

The concept of urgency — or the idea that you need to do something soon, even now — has a powerful effect on the brain. As one New York Times article detailed, our brains prioritize immediate satisfaction over long-term rewards; in other words, our brains are more likely to naturally prioritize a task if it means finishing and “accomplishing” that task now than they are to naturally prioritize work that counts toward a long-term goal, one in which the pay-off is far in the future.

Additionally, studies have found that humans are more inclined to perform small but urgent tasks if they have a cutoff than they are to perform tasks without a deadline, even if they are more important. The finish date signals urgency to our brains and that, if we finish the deadline-oriented task, we will have completed something successfully — or “won.” Thus, you may find that your brain focuses more easily on these tasks.

While the above facts can wreak havoc on your to-do list if left unchecked, you can harness this mental habit and make it work for you, not against you. Using deadlines to create a beneficial (even if artificial) sense of scarcity will drive you to act with purpose and greater clarity, leading to more efficient decision-making processes.

The Art of Setting Effective Deadlines

So, how do you go about setting effective deadlines for yourself?

The most effective deadlines align with “SMART” goals — goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant to your firm’s missions. The due date, by nature, accounts for the “T” in “SMART” goals, standing for “time-bound.” By ensuring that each deadline-driven goal is SMART, you ensure that it’s both challenging enough to motivate you and also doable. If a goal with a deadline is not achievable, you may find yourself demotivated by the process.

On a more granular level, setting one of these SMART goals might look like analyzing one of your long-term, non-urgent goals. Pick the one you never really work on because your brain has categorized it as non-urgent and thus non-important.

Then, create a feasible timeline for reaching this goal — even if it takes a year or longer to reach it. Break down this timeline into key milestones. You should be able to easily identify if you’ve reached each milestone via trackable progress or data. Next, set deadlines for each milestone that, when added up, result in you achieving your overall goal.

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Strategies for Enhancing Focus with Deadlines

Once you’ve established your milestones with associated deadlines, you can tackle them with a heightened sense of urgency. Your brain now operates with a clear cutoff point for which to aim.

Time-blocking can be an invaluable strategy for sharpening your focus further. Allocate specific, uninterrupted time slots dedicated solely to advancing toward your milestones. During these blocks, you might engage in activities such as seeking professional development, conducting intricate investment analyses, or finally addressing decisions you previously labeled “non-urgent.”

If your tasks are collaborative, apply these deadline-setting techniques to foster accountability within your team. This ensures everyone is in sync and committed to achieving the deadlines.

Consider employing the Pomodoro Technique within your time-blocking regimen to maintain intense, concentrated work intervals. This method involves 25 minutes of undisturbed work followed by a five-minute respite. Using a countdown timer can enhance the sense of immediacy, tricking your brain into maintaining a consistent urgency in your work.

Overcoming the Challenges of Time Scarcity

Naturally, leveraging time scarcity to enhance focus and productivity is not without its hurdles. It’s crucial not to apply deadline-setting and time scarcity strategies across all facets of your life. Striking a balance between concentrated work phases and sufficient relaxation is essential. Cultivating healthy routines is also beneficial in counteracting the stress associated with tight deadlines; practices such as mindfulness and consistent physical activity are supportive measures.

Furthermore, if managing all these elements seems daunting, you might explore time management aids and resources. Project management platforms and productivity apps can simplify the process of setting goals and deadlines, making the task less intimidating.

Implementing Deadline-Driven Practices in Your Firm

If you’ve used deadline-driven and time scarcity techniques in your own life and seen the benefits, you may want to cultivate a broader culture in your firm that thrives under pressure. To get started, consider providing training and support for employees to develop their time management skills, and harness your deadline-driven goal-setting techniques when setting expectations for your firm. Then, measure the impact of these deadline-focused practices by analyzing productivity, success rates, and overall performance.

With practice, you’ll find that deadline-driven methodologies will become a part of your firm’s organizational DNA.

The Bottom Line

Mastering the art of time scarcity can be the difference between a missed opportunity and a triumphant deal closure. But how can you turn the ticking clock into your greatest ally? By using deadlines, you can create a sense of urgency and force your brain to focus and work harder and faster. As such, it’s crucial to view time scarcity not as a hindrance but as a strategic asset that, when managed correctly, can lead to greater success.

Interested in improving your focus and maximizing your achievements? Book a complimentary results coaching call with an Arootah Executive Coach.

Additionally, register for our upcoming focus event on June 27th for expert focus strategies. For a limited time, use promo code FOCUS2024 for complimentary tickets!

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Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

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