I’ve never seen a deadline I didn’t like

Deadline. What an ominous word. No wonder people hate them.

I am not one of those people.

There is nothing like a looming deadline to galvanize oneself into action. Flying by the seat of your pants, hurtling towards near disaster, I mean is there really any better way to see past all the garbage that doesn’t contribute to reaching your goal, all the complexity you’ve created for yourself that simply doesn’t need to exist? When you have lots of time, it’s easy to let your mind drift to all the different ways something can be done, all the little considerations you should factor…all the entirely unrelated internet you do instead.

So don’t give me any of this soft deadline bull. You want something done, set a realistic, time-framed objective and make sure there are positive and negative consequences to getting it completed, and I will find a way. Soft deadlines are made to be broken with excuses and invented obstacles.

If you’re the type of person who struggles to internally motivate yourself and create your own sense of urgency, you need to set stretch goals or ask your boss to set them for you. That means putting your name out there. Signing up as a speaker at a conference on a topic you barely understand (I’m half joking but you get the idea). Telling your boss you’ll figure out that problem they didn’t ask you to work on and you’ll deliver an answer by the end of the week. Or if you’re me, pre-selling that book you promise to release for Christmas 2019.

For example, here are the questions I’m asking myself right now. Want to have a book published and released by Christmas but you can only spend part time on the process? That means you have to have your book submitted to the printer at the end of October, so it can be printed by December. Getting your book to the printer means a cover and interior layout. The layout will take at least a month to get right. The cover is dependent on book thickness, so that layout has to be done first. So the layout has to be finished by September, and the cover through October. Another important piece of the puzzle is a finished manuscript (duh!). Well that’s going to need at least a copy-edit and proofread, so there goes another two months since you’ll have to do revisions. Now it’s the end of June. Track back 3 months for your beta-readers to read and provide that final round of feedback and you’re approach March and… aw gawd dammit! I have 3 days to get this stupid manuscript completed and I’m nowhere close. Time to hold onto the seat of my pants.

Don’t shy away from deadlines, lean into them. They have the power to help you accomplish things in a timeframe you never thought possible. Getting a massive project due tomorrow is of course a recipe for stress, and that’s not what I’m suggesting. But a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and most importantly time-framed goal (the all important deadline) can help you do great things. Set that deadline a little shorter than what appears comfortable. You won’t regret it.

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