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Warning! Deadlines are much closer than they appear. ;)

Warning! Deadlines are much closer than they appear. 😉


1) Keep deadlines real

Have a concrete goal. Ideally break down your goal into something tangible. Something that can be measured and is a clearly defined outcome. Be clear what it is you want to achieve.

This is especially important when it comes to professional relationships and managing expectations:

“Many times, clients don’t always know what information you might need or what variables in the project could change the scope entirely. So it’s up to you to ferret out those details. Ask directed questions to get to the specifics, and don’t move on until you are confident that you know what you’re getting into.” – SitePoint


2) Keep deadlines realistic

An overambitious deadline can trigger resentment or giving up before even trying. Don’t provide an excuse for failure by setting ill-informed deadlines. Make sure the people working on the task have a say on the deadline.

Find your sweet spot – Reduce your time by 15 to 20%:

“You’re going to see how your efficiency is going to increase, and you’ll be able to do it without breaking a sweat. And then keep reducing, little by little. By 5 minutes, by 10 minutes, by 15, by another 5 to 10%. Keep reducing it until you find your sweet spot without going extreme.  You can use this process over and over again, on any and all tasks. Until you find that deadline that is short enough to give you that good amount of pressure that keeps you motivated, but long enough not to waste your time. That’s your sweet spot.” – High Performance Lifestyle


3) Make your deadline achievable

There are things you don’t have control over which can make it impossible to set a fixed deadline. Sometimes we just have to learn patience…

Include a buffer for any eventualities. Because, you know, life:

“Assume you’ll have last-minute issues. In managing people, I’ve noticed there are a lot of people who think, “That draft is due at close of business Wednesday, so I’ll write it Wednesday morning, which will give me plenty of time.” And it would have – except that they were out sick Wednesday, or had to field a client crisis, or otherwise couldn’t work on it that day and missed the deadline as a result. Don’t wait until a deadline is looming; work on things well ahead of deadlines, and you’ll more reliably stick to schedules (and often have the bonus of finishing up early).” – Intuit


4) Keep deadlines current

“Many of us procrastinate simply because we don’t see the task as urgent. The trick is making the task part of our ‘present’. In addition, a deadline can appear more present if it’s scheduled for the same day of the week as the day it’s assigned.” – Fast Company


5) Break down a big deadline into smaller deadlines

“The most motivating deadline is the one that is due tomorrow. Unless your five-year project can be broken down into things you need to finish today, it won’t help you beat procrastination.” – PickTheBrain

“In order to avoid a last-minute scramble, try a method called ‘scheduling in reverse’. The key idea here is to start with where you want to end up and move backwards:

Begin by analyzing the work so you know how much time each step or activity will require, and schedule each step or phase in reverse order so you know the latest feasible starting date you can safely use to meet your deadline. Use your experience and judgment to divide the task into short, manageable steps, each with its own deadline. Next, start on the beginning deadline date and allow time for each step, calculating backward. This calculation also gives you the target starting and ending dates for each step of the project.” – Baker Communications


6) Make the deadline count

“An important way to achieve deadlines is to have someone hold you accountable. This can be your boss at work, your partner, or a trusted friend. Choose someone that will ask you about your goals and check in with you. Getting others involved can drastically help you stay focused so that you have both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to get your goal achieved.” – Mike Delgado

Have regular status updates, so you always know where you are on the timeline and everyone’s in the loop. It’s easy to keep track of tasks with the help of online tools.


7) Reward yourself for making the deadline

Remember to reward yourself when accomplishing a deadline. If you don’t, who will?

“Operant Conditioning:
– Use specific rewards for specific achievements (e.g., after finishing the first half of a chapter, reward yourself with ice cream; after finishing reading the chapter, reward yourself with a CD).
– Remember the Premack principle: David Premack demonstrated an extremely important principle of behaviorism. Activities that people enjoy are effective reinforcers for engaging in activities that people do not enjoy doing. In other words, rewards do not have to be material. To use the principle to reinforce a task, you should write an extensive list of activities you enjoy doing. This list can be generated, according to Premack, by simply observing what you spend a lot of free time doing. The principle maintains that you should engage in a specific enjoyable activity only after you have completed a less enjoyable task.” – University of California, Santa Cruz


8) Take your deadline seriously

Or rather: Take yourself seriously. Can you trust yourself to put in the effort and meet your deadline? Can you uphold accountability even if it’s just yourself you’re accountable to?

It is easy to find excuses, but in the end you’re only fooling yourself.

At the same time, don’t beat yourself up when you’ve missed a deadline. It’s not a train smash – as Douglas Adams put it: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” 🙂




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