The Science of Deadlines, Writing, and Procrastination

The Science of Deadlines

Cognitive science backs me up on this point. More specifically, Dan Ariely does. In his book Predictably Irrational, he describes an experiment conducted with three of his classes at MIT. (Note to college students: never trust a psychology professor.)

  • For another, all the papers were due at the end of the semester; students could turn them in earlier, but would receive no extra credit for doing so.
  • In the third class, students picked their own paper schedules. Once they did, they were committed those dates.
  1. Deadlines are an important defense against procrastination.
  2. Waiting until the last moment generally degrades the quality of our writing, particularly in work that involves research and synthesizing ideas

Commit Yourself

If your writing project has no externally imposed schedule, commit to your own deadlines. When you work on longer projects, create interim milestones to monitor your progress and maintain motivation.

  • Outline: the 4th
  • First draft: the 10th
  • Revisions from the team: by the 15th
  • Proofreading: the 20th
  • Publication: the 25th



Author, Writing Coach, Unapologetic Nonfiction Geek. Writing about Writing Itself (very meta).

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