Fear Not the Deadlines, New Research Finds
Deadlines are part and parcel of modern knowledge work. Journalists must serve their weekly columns, managers must turn in their monthly reports, and researchers must submit their papers and proposals on time. Despite their ubiquity, deadlines conjure up negative feelings and are perceived as challenging events. Accordingly, there has been a trend to do away with deadlines, where possible. For instance, the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States introduced no-deadline submissions in some of its funding programs. Critics, however, have been arguing that although deadlines may be painful, they are necessary, because they motivate people to act.
Researchers from the University of Houston, Texas A&M, and the Polytechnic of Milano set out to address the question at the heart of the matter: “Does knowledge work near deadlines incur higher sympathetic load than knowledge work away from deadlines?” Sympathetic activation is the state of physiological arousal that indicates how much people are “on the tips of their toes,” and often leads to stress. This is why its intensity and duration should be kept in check, according to the researchers.
The first-of-its-kind study published in the Proceedings of the ACM Human Factors in Computing, was led by Ioannis Pavlidis, professor of computer science and director of the Affective and Data Computing Laboratory at UH.