Tag Archives: deadlines

Christmas Cards: The Magic of Setting a Deadline

When I arrived at my client’s house and asked if we were going to do Christmas cards she said, “Yes! As of 5 p.m. yesterday I had nothing ready to do cards, and amazingly I’m now ready!” This is a client who has a history of having great difficulty getting her cards done by Christmas. One July several years earlier we came across her Christmas cards that she had never finished from the Christmas before. When I asked her if we could pitch them, she said, “No, I still want to send them.” So, together we finished them. And, ever since she has scheduled one or two sessions prior to Christmas to have me help her get them done. Our current session was the second attempt this year to get the cards done.

My client knew that if she didn’t pull together the stamps and return address labels, print her labels, and get her photo card printed, she was at risk of not getting her cards done this year. She was blocked because she didn’t have a good photo of her children. She could have chosen to cancel our appointment or use our time together for another project. But, she decided to use the pressure of the deadline of our appointment to motivate her to seek help from an employee to create the photo card. Once that block was removed, she was able to move forward.

While I put the stamps, address labels, and return address labels on the envelopes and stuffed the photo cards in them, my client wrote her annual Christmas letter. By the time we ended our session, the letter was written, printed and folded to go in the cards. All that was left to do was sign the cards and add some personal notes!

What was most remarkable about this whole experience was the change in my client’s energy when it became clear that we were going to get the cards to a point where she could easily finish them on her own. This client is a fairly reserved person, not prone to outward expressions of excitement, but that night she was absolutely glowing and thrilled with what she had been able to pull off in such a short period of time. It seemed like a miracle to her.

Would she have been at the same point if she had not set a deadline by hiring me to help her? No way! Deadlines can be really powerful motivators if you honor them!

What’s Your Clutter Clearing Style?

Imagine this. You have decided to move to a new home, one that is considerably smaller than the one you now live in. How would you approach that task?

I have moved house and home many times. Each time, in anticipation of an impending move, even before I’d found a new home, I would immediately begin clutter clearing, doing something every day to lighten my load on moving day. I would slowly make my way through the house, trashing or donating everything that would not fit with the life I wanted to have in my new home. I describe myself as a plodder, someone who when faced with a task does a little bit of work every day until the task is done. I appreciate a deadline, but don’t need a deadline to take action.

As you know, not everyone is a plodder. I was recently working with a client who was planning a move. She had a large home and would be downsizing. Instead of beginning to clear clutter, she was out looking at houses. The work she wanted us to do together focused on digging out her backlog of paper that had been accumulating for months, but I was chomping at the bit to help her begin clearing out those things that would not be going with her to her new home. I sensed no such urgency from her. If anything, she seemed reluctant to start clearing out her house to prepare for the move. When she talked about looking at houses I asked, “ Do you want to find the home you’ll buy so you’ll have a deadline to motivate you to start clearing out this house and packing to move? Are you needing that deadline to get you moving?” She said, “ Yes, I guess I do.” My client is what I call a “burster”, someone who works in bursts of activity, mostly motivated by firm deadlines, especially when tasks that need to be done are difficult, overwhelming or boring.

I first became aware that there were differences in the way people approach getting tasks done when I was in high school. In my diligent, plodding manner I’d always finish my assignments well in advance of their due dates. I had several friends, however, who would coast along enjoying life while I worked, and then work frantically the day before an assignment was due. I plodded. They worked in last minute bursts! I have one such friend who says, “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done!”

I have since learned that the explanation behind plodder and burster behavior is differences in brain wiring. Some people are wired such that they need the pressure of a deadline to activate their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with executive functions like organizing and getting things done. Others, like me, can activate the prefrontal cortex without the pressure of a deadline. In fact, my brain works less efficiently if rushing to finish a task at the last minute.

What are you, a burster or a plodder? Which ever type you are, it’s probably due to your wiring, and therefore a way of being that is difficult and possibly impossible to change. Being conscious of the way you work is helpful. Plodders can become more tolerant and less judgmental of bursters who seem to thrive on stress, understanding that there is more going on than just an addiction to excitement, and that there is more than one way to get things done. Bursters, knowing that they need deadlines to create the motivation to take action, can create deadlines for themselves to make sure that important tasks get done.

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in your life. If you’re ready to finally clear the clutter from your life and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.