Deadline — now that sounds pretty dangerous. It actually used to be, because the term originally came from American prison camps: inmates were not allowed to cross a certain line under threat of death.
In our work environment, no one is threatened with death if they exceed a due date, the “deadline”. Nevertheless, it hovers over us like a sword of Damocles whenever such a deadline is approaching. Time limits are usually perceived as negative and therefore deadlines are not a good idea, are they?
It probably always depends on the situation and the person — but in the everyday work of scientists, according to a recent publication, deadlines have a small impact on stress levels. Sympathetic nervous system activation, facial physiology, facial expressions and movements were recorded as metrics for this.
According to the study, scientists consistently experience high sympathetic activation during their work, which is also due to the large proportion of reading and writing activities. But this high sympathetic activation was about the same both with and without deadlines. It was interesting to note that the subjects reduced stress by taking correspondingly more breaks. In other words, they noticed themselves when the cognitive work became strenuous for them. Deadlines were not the driving force for them.
Quick tip: It’s better not to grab your smartphone when you’re taking a break. Its intensive use increases the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, just like strenuous intellectual work. A short walk or a power nap would be better.