The power of setting a deadline

In ‘The Magical Power of 15 Minutes‘ we discussed how to stop procrastinating and actually begin working on a task.  Once a task is started however, the next hurdle is to work out how to keep the momentum going so that it actually gets finished.



Here is where having a deadline can help immensely.  When I was working on my promotional application using the ‘Magical power of 15 minutes‘ strategy, there was a very short deadline for submission.  I had only 7 weeks to complete the work before I would have to wait 12 months to apply again.  This was a very powerful motivator for me.  If I didn’t get it done, another year would go by before I could try again.  Of course I could have spent the year working on it and been ready long before the time came, but we all know how long a year seems when we are at the start of it and how short it becomes once we are nearing the end.

I finished the application in those 7 weeks and submitted it.  Was it perfect?  No.  Did it matter?  No.  I knew that as long as I got it submitted, there was a chance.  If I put it in and it was no good, I hadn’t lost anything.  If I didn’t put it in, I lost another whole year.  Happily, it passed on the first attempt.

Having a time deadline on something creates a sense of urgency and inspires us to work hard to achieve that goal.  How much more power there is in a desire to lose weight for the high school reunion in 12 weeks time than in the general goal to lose weight?  How much easier would it be to say no to that impulse buy if we had already booked our overseas vacation and were now madly saving for it?  Are we more likely to finish that bathroom renovation simply because it needs doing or because Aunty Jan is coming to visit in July?  You can see the extra motivation these deadlines create.

Of course not all tasks we work on will have an external deadline.  Many things we want or need to do can happen at any time, or not at all if we don’t make up our minds to do them.

The solution to this is to create a deadline for ourselves.

For example, the goal of ‘Write my first novel’, has no set deadline.  We might wait forever to find the time, inspiration, perfect moment to work on it.  Having no set end date might mean that we stumble around with the first chapter forever or give up after a couple of attempts.  No deadline on this goal means that most likely it will never happen.  If though, we were to set our own goals to have the first chapter finished in 4 weeks, the second in another 4 etc, that puts a definite time frame on to it and the desire to achieve that becomes far greater.

Maybe we want to lose weight but there is no big event looming on our social calendar.  If so, we can simply create one for ourselves.  Pick a date that has some significance for you and work towards it as if it is the most important date in the year.  Choose a reward for yourself once you get there if that works for you but choose the date, write it on the calendar, think about the steps you need to take to get there and actively work towards it.

Simple, everyday tasks can have a deadline set on them too.  Sometimes I will set a deadline to get the housework done by 10am so that we can all go to the beach.  Without this deadline I might dither around with it all day.  Giving myself that deadline means that I get stuck into it, get it done in record time and I am then free to go out and have some fun.  Sure, I could have left it to finish when I got home but chances are I wouldn’t feel like it then and the task would remain undone.

Think about all of the things in your life that you need/want/would like to do.  If there is already a deadline for the task, begin using ‘Magical power of 15 minutes‘ strategy.  If no deadline exists in reality, create one for yourself.

If it is important enough to do, it is important enough to schedule.

What steps have you taken in your life to achieve your wants and dreams?

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