Deadlines or Daydreams: When Do Designers Get the Most Done?

So I’m sure no matter how long you’ve been in the field you’ve been faced with both sides of this coin; the free reign concept with plenty of time and resources vs the project that the client wants yesterday while everyone else is nowhere to be seen.

Looking at it now I’m sure 95% of us would hands down say the first is by far the most preferable option, but when you’re actually there just twiddling your thumbs scrolling through pages of stock (and probably cute cat) images wishing the time away, is it really? Take a second to look back at the last time you were on a really thin thread with a deadline, did you get it done? Exactly. Whilst it might not be true for everyone, a lot of people, myself included, work far better when we don’t have time to spare.

Most of you are probably reading this thinking well obviously, because if we didn’t handle pressure then we wouldn’t get anywhere, am I wrong? Whilst you are right in thinking that, there is actually some science behind this. It’s said that when a reward (in this case, a finished project) is further away we tend to lessen its value which is also known as hyperbolic discounting which makes perfect sense because if something isn’t imminent then we focus less of our effort and attention on it. Another reason that we do this is due to us having a tendency to think of our past and future selves in the third person, for example have you ever been drunk and ordered “future you” a pizza for the next day to cure the hangover? (No me neither, but I’m sure some smart ass on the internet has). I digress but it’s true, if you think that there’s something you can put off for your future self to do, we both know you’re going to do it.

Now as someone who coasted through college seeing how much partying (I mean gaming, c’mon I was no Steve Stiffler) I could squeeze in before actually grabbing my laptop and stash of redbull and cracking out 6 week projects in 24 hours. I can completely vouch for this. Unfortunately when it comes to work, things aren’t that easy and we are faced with much higher pressure on a much more frequent level.

As I said, while its true that loads of us strive under pressure, we all know that the productivity spike during chaos is much more useful with some organisation and planning. So for those likeminded folks who could do with just a little more method to the madness, if you aren’t already familiar with it then I highly recommend having a read of something known as the broken window theory. A mid 1900’s criminology theory that in its essence translates that by going through all the small problems and hiccups with your workflow you will in turn eliminate more of the large ones before they even occur giving you a clearer view of how to proceed.