The Power of Setting Deadlines - Think Deep

The Power of Setting Deadlines

Setting deadlines on our goals is something we hear we should do, but that’s about all there is to it on the subject. It’s not delved into any further.

The obvious logic behind setting deadlines is that it makes your goal seem more “real” in a sense and puts some sort of pressure on you to achieve it by the date you set. It sounds great in theory, but few will apply it.

One of the main reasons why people are hesitant to set deadlines is that they think that if they set the deadline too early, they won’t be able to achieve it by then, so in order to prevent themselves from disappointment, they don’t bother to set it at all.

If they still elect to set a deadline, they will then set it too far away, which creates too much slack in the “rope” so to speak, which then doesn’t create enough pressure to get things going which then easily leads to procrastination and nothing getting done.

If you’ve ever watched a football game, sometimes it’s painful to see the team you are NOT rooting for, get the ball in the winding minutes of the game, even if they’re losing on the scoreboard. The reason why people tend to get uneasy is that sometimes you can just “feel” the upset coming, that the team you’re going against will pull it off.

The opposing team knows about the short deadline and they feel the pressure from it, but more importantly, they know exactly what they need to do to win the game.

This is important.

This is a huge advantage to that team because early in the game, you just score as many points as you can. If you are within field goal range, you can elect to kick a field goal on 4th down and score 3 points instead of gambling and going for another 1st down or a touchdown.

But because the deadline is looming near and there’s only so much time on the clock left till the game ends, the opposing team knows exactly what they need to do and the pressure of the deadline is there to keep them alert and focused enough to do it.

If they’re down by more than 4, they know they must score a touchdown to win the game.
If they’re down by 2 or less, they know they can just get within field goal range and kick it to win the game.
If they’re down by 3, they can decide whether or not to tie it up with a field goal and slug it out in overtime or go for all the marbles to win the game.

Case in point, the deadline is there, creating the pressure to get things going.
They know exactly what they’re supposed to do.
And they know that they need to do it to order achieve their goal of winning the game.

What fuels the criteria of “need” is usually fear and the avoidance of pain. We don’t turn in our final essay in college after the deadline because we fear we won’t pass the class and we want to avoid the pain of doing just that. We turn in our taxes before the deadline so we don’t have to get a nasty letter from the IRS and pay a hefty fine. We don’t give up in the final seconds of the game because we fear losing and want to avoid the pain of doing just that.

You need a good deadline to give you enough pressure to get things going and you have to know exactly what has to be done and you have to need to do it.

If there’s a deficiency in any of these three factors, the power of the deadline loses its efficacy.

Some people set a good deadline and they know they need to do it, but they don’t know exactly what they need to do.

Classic example is: “I will get a “good” job by the end of this year.” What’s a good job exactly?

Some people will set a good deadline and know exactly what has to be done, but they don’t really need to do it so why bother doing it at all in the first place?

Some people know exactly what they have to do and they need to do it, but setting a good deadline seems to be the tricky part as it can give them so much cushion that they procrastinate or so much pressure that they collapse under it.

So how do you find that balance in terms of setting a good deadline to give you just enough pressure to get things going?

Experiment with the deadline by starting short first.

Start short. Give yourself less than what you deem as ample time. This will automatically kick your butt into gear and while you’re doing the things you need to be doing to get things going, you’ll soon get a feel of what the ideal deadline will be.

You’ll see when you go through the whole process and get a better idea of what’s realistic and what’s not and with that information, you can then slide the deadline in either direction accordingly but before you do that, stick to your original deadline.

Get as much as you can get done by then and then step back and re-evaluate things.

Look at how much you got done within that specific period of time and then using that information, set a deadline by starting short again.

Start the entire cycle again by setting a short deadline because you need that pressure to get you going and what will happen is that as time passes by, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised at just how much you get done in so little time.

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