Dan Ariely’s Wallstreet Journal column — Personal Utility of Deadlines

A word to the wise,  Dr Bob

Dear Dan, From personal experience, I know that some people delay making a choice as long as possible, while others make quick decisions. What differentiates these two types and what advice would you give to get people to make decisions faster and to feel better about them?—Amy In my own studies, we hardly ever find large differences among individuals. In the social sciences in general, individual differences are usually smaller than people expect and matter less than the environment. So if we look at your question, I would phrase it slightly differently and ask, “What kinds of things get people to delay decisions and what kinds of environments get people to take immediate action?”   I would suggest that things like deadlines are incredibly helpful. One British granting agency used to have two deadlines for professors to submit grant applications. When this system was in place, everybody was rushing to submit papers and proposals in time for those grant deadlines. Then the agency let people submit proposals whenever they wished, with decisions on grants made twice a year. No more rushing! But the number of proposals submitted dropped dramatically. Why? Because deadlines allow us to clarify our thoughts and create an action plan. They are good at getting people to perform a particular act, like submitting a grant proposal. Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

Please share your experience/response to this Post. I'd sure like to know, and it could be useful to someone else. You can click the Post's title to view the entire post, and Comment below, if you like. The "Name Field" will accept any name, so you can be Anonymous [Anon] if you prefer. You must enter your Email to post a comment, but your Email address will not appear publicly. Thanks, Dr Bob
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