The Deadline Effect | Christopher Cox

Summary of: The Deadline Effect: How to Work Like It’s the Last Minute―Before the Last Minute
By: Christopher Cox


Step into the dynamic world of deadlines in Christopher Cox’s book, ‘The Deadline Effect: How to Work Like It’s the Last Minute—Before the Last Minute’, where he unveils the art of using deadlines as a motivating force. Through intriguing case studies across various industries, Cox demonstrates how organizations avoid the pitfalls of the deadline effect by treating deadlines as powerful, yet manageable, tools. In this summary, discover the Easter lily farmers’ secret to successful project planning, how a ski resort strategically juggles soft and hard deadlines, and the strategy Best Buy employs to seamlessly navigate Black Friday chaos. Prepare to harness the power of deadlines and enhance productivity in both professional and personal contexts.

The Power of Deadlines

Christopher Cox, former editor-in-chief of Harper’s and executive editor of GQ, highlights the “deadline effect” – the tendency for individuals to procrastinate until the last minute when facing a deadline. However, Cox argues that organizations can leverage deadlines as motivational tools to reach their goals on time without sacrificing quality. In his book, Cox provides colorful case studies and a fresh analysis to teach readers to make deadlines work for them. He also blends behavioral science, psychological theory, and academic studies to provide a compelling and descriptive account of the power of deadlines.

The Power of Early Deadlines

Christopher Cox, the executive editor of GQ, learns the persuasive power of early deadlines when John, a talented writer notorious for missing deadlines, submitted his cover story on rapper Puff Daddy moments before the final deadline. Despite being told that the deadline was a week earlier, John missed it. This incident made Cox realize the importance of early deadlines in ensuring timely and high-quality article submissions.

The Planning Fallacy and Easter Lilies

The annual commercial supply of 10 million Easter lily bulbs in the US and Canada is produced by four farms in Smith River, California. The mystery of how these flowers always bloom just in time for Easter was solved by author Cox. The key is counting backward from the Easter Sunday deadline, allowing for the upward of 110 days in the greenhouse needed for the bulbs to bloom. This technique helps farmers avoid the planning fallacy – the trap of seizing the most optimistic project completion timetable while ignoring relevant information. Cox’s findings teach us the importance of planning backward to prevent underestimating project time and cost.

The Race to Meet a Ski Resort’s Deadline

Cox visits Telluride Ski Mountain to witness how the resort prepares for its busiest period. Thanksgiving weekend is usually a traditional opening date, but in 2018, most of the ski runs were still brown a week before the opening. However, the resort’s management was determined to open on time, as it served as a message to holidaymakers that they would be ready for Christmas. In reality, the resort’s revenue largely comes from the period after Christmas. To meet the soft deadline, the resort needed 200 hours of cold nightly temperatures to lay down enough snow. The snow machines can turn 5,000 gallons of water into snow hourly if the temperature is cold enough. The team filled two reservoirs with water every night, directed it to the snow guns, and created enough snow despite the tight deadline. At 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, Cox saw the opening of the lifts.

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