Business | 03/09/2016
How to Make Deadlines More Manageable
Strangely enough, it seems like deadlines have grown less important as we’ve gotten older. We can probably all recall the terror of being seventeen and suddenly remembering at midnight on a Thursday—while egging and teepeeing your friend’s house—that you had a ten-page paper due the next morning.
…that was just me?
Well, you can probably relate in one way or another.
The truth is, deadlines seemed to carry more weight back then. If you didn’t turn in your paper when it was due, you got docked points. You lost something of worth.
Now, in the working professions, you can still lose something by constantly missing deadlines. Your job, for example. That’s a pretty big deal. But more often than not, deadlines are set arbitrarily and can be pushed back. Meetings are rescheduled. Product announcements are put on hold.
But if we could start treating deadlines with the importance and, dare I say, fear we once gave them, they can once again be effective tools in helping manage time and get our work done.
How to Make Deadlines More Manageable—and Effective
Don’t worry, we’re not just yelling the word SMART. It’s an acronym.
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive. Read about it in detail here.
If you’re setting a deadline for yourself, it’s a great idea to ask yourself if it’s smart, measurable, attainable, etc. If it falls short in any of the categories, there’s a good chance you’ll end up missing your deadline because you’re going to get stuck on a part that’s not defined well enough.
One of the reasons we miss deadlines is we get stuck on something—either because it’s not clear where to go next, or we’re afraid of making a mistake. Which leads us to point number two.
Just Ship It
Actually having to turn in work that may not be 100% perfect can be paralyzing. But of course, nothing is ever perfect, and coming to a point where you realize that “done is better than perfect,” you can liberate yourself to do some great work.
The idea is not to turn out anything less than great, but it is a maxim that stresses that finishing is the only way to move forward. Like Seth Godin says, at some point you have to stop working on a project and just ship it.
Start Feeling Good
Let’s be honest, we all want to feel good about ourselves. And once you start hitting a deadline, you’re going to feel good about yourself. You’ve accomplished something. The more times you set a deadline and you reach it, the better you’re going to get at it and the more important those deadlines are going to become to you.
Setting goals and sticking to them is habit-forming. If you’re like me, forming habits (like consistently hitting deadlines) is tough.
But one way to help yourself, and remind you to manage your day (and time) better, is to use an app like Commit. I’ve used it in the past, and it does work.
The way it works is you enter a goal, like “I want to write 500 words every day.”
Then, the app reminds you, every day, to do what you said you’d do. If you do it, you check it off. As you string days together, you build a chain. As your chain gets bigger, you grow more and more attached and you don’t want to see it broken. It builds a sense of accomplishment in you. You feel good, and you start thinking of new ways to manage your day and your time to make sure you’re able to achieve the goal you set for yourself.
And that’s it. Three simple ways to make deadlines relevant again and more manageable so you actually hit them instead of having “Carla, let’s move that meeting to next week” set as a typing shortcut on your iPhone.
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