How you can learn to love deadlines

Deadlines are a bit like Marmite – you either love them or hate them. But if you fall into the second category, don’t worry. Coach Teri Samson shares her advice on how you can learn to love (or at least despise a little less!) deadlines and enjoy the feeling of achievement when you successfully meet them.

For some people, a deadline causes many a sleepless night and a surge in our stress levels. For others, we are comforted by the knowledge that there is actually an end in sight.

But thankfully today, the ‘end’ is not quite as dramatic as it used to be. Originally, the word ‘deadline’ was coined in 1864 from the American Civil War where prisoners were threatened they’d be shot if they passed a certain line within the prison grounds. American journalists then reinvented it in the 1920s, when editors set deadlines with the implication ‘Your story is dead – You are dead – if you go beyond this time to finish it’.

So, love them or hate them, deadlines serve us well for many reasons.

10 strategies to help you love deadlines

But how do you set yourself a deadline on smaller, personal projects? And more importantly how do you ensure you are going to reach it?

  1. Start with the end in mind and work backwards. Decide what your overall goal or vision is first.
  2. Decide when the job must be finished. If you are working with other people then make sure you all agree a deadline together. Estimate how long you will realistically need and adjust your timescale appropriately. Once agreed, ensure this is clearly communicated in writing to all concerned.
  3. Deadlines give us an exact time frame in which to reach our goals. We all need some kind of structure to monitor progress or theoretically nothing would ever be achieved.
  4. Deadlines create the need for action. Once a deadline is set and agreed, the only way to meet it is by designing clear, appropriate actions.
  5. Creating a deadline reinforces your commitment to achieving the outcome.
  6. Identify your starting point. Know exactly what resources, information, finances, situation etc.. you have available right now to help you reach your deadline.
  7. Next, identify what’s missing. If the task is complex or has various stages involved, then identify, prioritise and plot these on to the overall framework. This gives you mini deadlines to work towards your overall deadline.
  8. Make sure you have appropriate and realistic ways of checking you are on track ie: plot mini deadlines. If you are working with others, then ensure you all agree this at the start or it could interfere with the process.
  9. Can a deadline be changed? A good rule of thumb is to never miss or change a deadline. There is a greater risk that you’ll miss an opportunity, it sends the wrong message and you can lose momentum or confidence in future.
  10. Remind yourself frequently about what you will achieve. Always keep focussed on the final deadline and use your adrenaline and energy to keep you excited about reaching it.

The best thing about deadlines is when you finally get there, because the only thing you ever remember afterwards is the euphoria, the sense of achievement, the acknowledgement of a job well done and the confidence that brings. For me, that’s what deadlines are really about, that’s what makes them so worthwhile and enjoyable.

So I hope you do fall in love with your deadlines and enjoy the party afterwards, you deserve it!