Why Deadlines Matter (And How to Set Deadlines You’ll Achieve)

It’s crucial to create deadlines for yourself to help you achieve your goals.

Whether you want to complete a project at work – or achieve a personal goal – it’s important to set realistic deadlines for yourself.

I started this blog to force myself to publish content every week. If I don’t set deadlines, then I’ll just let articles sit forever because I’m never fully satisfied. There is always a way to tighten it up a paragraph. There’s always a way to tweak a word and make a sentence sound better.

If I don’t set deadlines, then I’ll just keep tweaking my work and never accomplish anything.

Here are some reasons why deadlines are important:

Deadlines force you to think about what it will take to accomplish your goal.
When creating a deadline for yourself, it forces you to think through the steps you need to achieve it. Each step will require a certain amount of time – and that will better inform how long it will take you to finish the project. Visualizing all the steps involved (and finishing it) can help motivate you to start tackling each small step.

Deadlines help you prioritize what you’ll work on (and for how long).
There is nothing like a strict deadline to help you prioritize your workflow. Even while writing this article, I’ve set a deadline to finish this before getting out of my seat. This helps me avoid checking email or doing anything else on the web before finishing this article. My self-imposed deadline is forcing me to stay on task so I will move on to other tasks later.

Deadlines push us.
Do you remember all the papers and projects you were assigned in school? You had to push yourself to get everything done – and sometimes stayed awake all night just to finish an important paper. If we didn’t have deadlines with consequences, we would never push ourselves. The same is true now. You need to set deadlines (and possibly consequences) for yourself so that you will push yourself.

The trouble with setting deadlines is that we often don’t know how long something will take.¬†Psychologists refer to this problem as the planning fallacy – wherein we often underestimate how long it will take to achieve something. We often set goals that are too ambitious – and don’t think about all the challenges along the way.

So how do we create better deadlines we’ll achieve?

Some suggestions:

Create realistic deadlines by thinking through all the steps and challenges involved.
Don’t think about the “best case scenario” to get a project done. Instead, think through each step and any challenges you might experience along the way. Give yourself some wiggle room when creating a deadline date to ensure you’ll meet it. The deadline date shouldn’t be too easy to achieve – or too challenging.

Create deadlines with consequences and rewards.
In school, there were consequences for missing deadlines on papers – and there were rewards for doing a good work by getting higher grades. Give yourself deadlines with consequences and rewards. For example, if you achieve your deadline, you will celebrate by doing something fun or buying something you’ve been wanting. If you miss your deadline, you’re not allowed to do something you enjoy.

Get others involved to hold you accountable to your deadlines.
An important way to achieve important 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.

Lastly, remember that setting deadlines for yourself is geared to help you finish. Don’t create a deadline if you don’t intend to achieve it. After all, if the date doesn’t matter – then it’s not really a deadline.

So how do you set deadlines? What strategies work for you? 

One Response to Why Deadlines Matter (And How to Set Deadlines You’ll Achieve)
  1. Mike Delgado Reply

    I would love to hear your strategies for achieving your deadlines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.