It’s good to have a schedule planned out each week, but having too many appointments set for each day might be be more harmful than helpful. A recent study suggests the more self-imposed deadlines we have in a day, the less deep work we can get done.
The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that people facing upcoming appointments – such as meetings, family events, personal errands and so on – are unable to tackle the larger tasks their jobs often require, even if they actually have the time to do them.
According to the researchers, we tend to perceive we have less time when we know a boundary, or deadline, is approaching, and thus perform fewer tasks because of this misconception. Not only that, but we’re less likely to even attempt starting “extended-time tasks”, or the bigger projects we have on our plate, for the same reasons.
Basically, when you know you have an appointment coming up, you get nothing done. You look at the clock and think, “I’ve got that meeting in an hour, so I better not start this important thing yet,” or you unknowingly procrastinate even the smallest tasks because that hour feels more like 20 minutes.
And if you happen to have several appointments in a day, you’re practically setting yourself up to fail in terms of getting things done. The more time boundaries you create, the more often this unfortunate phenomenon will occur.
So, how can you avoid this productivity trap? First, if possible, don’t overload your day with too many appointments. If it’s unavoidable, try to keep these overloaded days to a minimum. Attempt to have a couple of appointment days and a few wide open days so you can make up for lost time.
Also, schedule your appointments for the early morning or the late afternoon. The researchers recommend you always leave a large chunk of your work day open for uninterrupted, focused work on your big projects.