Do you need a deadline in order to get things done? Is that the only way you can accomplish what you need to do? Are you productive without a firm end date? Many people perform better with a deadline. I do. Sure, I can go full-steam on something that I’m very excited about, something I want to do, but when it comes to the things I don’t want to do…..let’s just say I move more slowly. In fact, there are things that I put off until the absolute last minute. (I know I’m not the only one.) Some people say that they like to work under pressure, but I think it’s all about the deadline. What is a deadline? A requirement or expectation, right? And they work when you cannot control them, when you have to deliver results or adjust your actions around them.
We all have things we need to do, we want to do and we should ‘get around to.’ If you’re someone who makes to-do lists (Yay!!!), but you keep transferring the same items from day to day and week to week, how can you get those things done? Create deadlines! Sure, you might think that creating a deadline for yourself won’t work because you can just move it. And no one’s going to know if you miss it, right? But learning to create and work with deadlines will affect your productivity because you’re changing the language you use internally and your actions. You’re also taking an abstract idea (the project and the ‘time’ around it) and making it more tangible, more concrete. The more you use this practice, the better it will start to work for you.
- Grab a red pen and write the deadline for something on the calendar, and be realistic. You still may need to break down a project into steps and in that case, give each step a deadline. If you want to complete something in the next 30 days, write down the project’s goal in next month’s calendar and write down what you need to accomplish weeks 1, 2 and 3, or step deadlines, so you can reach your goal. Review these dates and goals so they start to sink in.
- How do you feel when you accomplish what you set out to do? And how do you feel when you don’t finish what you intended to do? Start to use those feelings/scenarios as motivation to set a deadline and to work on the project. Even say it aloud and tell yourself often, “I will feel great about myself and my mind will be more clear after I get: the garage cleaned, my closet organized, the fundraiser planned, my resume completed, etc.” The repetition will help and it creates accountability.
- Reward yourself. Sure, when you reach the deadline at work, it’s expected, although you may get kudos (and the benefit of keeping your job and being on the boss’s good side!). For something you’re doing for yourself, think of a reward system and stick to it! Find a treat that you will only indulge in if you complete what you said you were going to do. Maybe it’s a spa day, your favorite gelato, a movie night, etc. It should be something you enjoy and tell yourself you don’t get to take part unless you get your stuff done. For example: I want to go to sushi night with the girls on Thursday so I better spend the next 60 minutes making my phone calls, setting up appointments and researching landscape styles to complete the first deadline in the backyard landscape project and I know I’ll feel really good about myself and enjoy my evening more if I get this done. (Plus, you don’t want to cancel on your friends!) At some point, the satisfaction of meeting a deadline will be reward enough.
Take the things you need to do and haven’t gotten around to and create deadlines. Follow the steps above so you can be more productive and get ahead. No more waiting to the last minute, working in a frenzy or feeling badly that you just can’t get it done.