Remember back in high school or college when you had a paper due? Inevitably, you were up until the middle of the night the night before you had to hand it in trying to get it done. If you didn´t do that, then you are excused from reading this today because it just isn´t for you. I was constantly writing my papers later than I maybe should have. Here´s the thing, though — I loved it. I loved the adrenaline, I loved the challenge of it and I loved the feeling of getting it done. I had (usually) done some research before I started, and I was able to perform well under the pressure, so I probably subconsciously put myself into that situation.
Many experts in my field (and my mother) would say that leaving things to the last minute is a terrible habit. There´s something to that. In some cases. On the other hand, if working when you´re up against a firm deadline works for you then I can see no good reason why you should avoid it in some cases. I use deadlines to motivate and get things done all the time because they work well with my personal make up.
Just yesterday was a good example of how I do this. I had somewhere fun I wanted to go, but I had seven short articles to write before I could leave. It normally takes between an hour and a half and two hours to write that many of these particular articles. Ideally, I wanted to leave in just over an hour. That meant a deadline. I told myself that I had to have the articles done in that time. And I made it comfortably. The deadline wasn´t reached at the cost of quality, though. I just put my head down, avoided all inefficiencies and worked my butt off. It felt great, too. I was racing against myself and the clock, which made the work even more fun and interesting than it normally is. I got my work done and kept my mind fresh at the same time.
Working to a deadline works best when you are working to a deadline you have set and not one that has been set for you. That means that you aren´t technically leaving things to the last minute. You are setting your own deadline based on your needs, not outside expectations. You want to be motivated by a sense of challenge and accomplishment, not driven by panic or desperation. The former can improve your work while the latter can hamper it. This technique is also a bit like an ice cream sundae. A sundae tastes great, but not if you have one every day. Working to your own deadline is a tool to pull out of the box once in a while, but it loses its teeth if you use it all the time.