5 Ways to Win with Deadlines

Do you get things done?

Let me ask a slightly different question, “Do you get things done on time?”

These days it seems that not many people do. The norm is to be late whether it is finishing a project or showing up to a meeting.

Our society has conditioned us to ignore deadlines. How often do you see people asking for an extension or simply not completing a project on time? The normal response is, “I’m still working on it.”

Oh well, who cares? Very nonchalant. It has become acceptable in modern culture. Workers get away with it, because it is the norm… everyone does it.

Where do deadlines come from?

Do you know where the word deadline comes from?  From earliest uses, it refers to:

“a line that was drawn around a prison.  If prisoners crossed this line they could be shot dead on sight.”

Hence, the word…deadline.

Would people get things done on time or finish projects by the deadline… if they were going to be shot?!?!?

Why we don’t care about deadlines…


Our society become indifferent about deadlines and completing things on time.  It has become commonplace to ask for an extension on a project or term paper.  How many business projects actually finish on time and within budget?

Instead, there are whole industries built around not meeting deadlines:

  • FedEx
  • Belated birthday cards
  • Extensions on your filing your taxes

Almost everything now has an early registration and a late registration. Even with penalties and additional charges, many people still choose the late registration.

Now, why would anyone choose the late registration that costs more?   Well, that is exactly what you do when you are not organized enough to get things done on time.  This brings additional cost and stress to your life. (also know as Life Friction)

In fact, in our accountability lacking work culture…one of the biggest mistakes made is not setting deadlines.  Why?  People do not want to be held accountable to them.

Without a deadline there is no urgency.  Have you every had a task on your todo list with no deadline, no urgency?  What happens?  Usually nothing.  It sits on your list for months.

Winning against deadlines…

So, how do we make ourselves care about deadlines? Especially when others do not.  How can we get things done on time?

Here are a 5 Ways to Win with Deadlines:

  1. Set Early Deadlines – If you have a project due by a certain date, set your own deadline, but set it earlier that the actual date.  This sounds elementary, but not many do this.   Have you ever finished a project earlier than the deadline?  It feels great!
  2. Advertise the deadline – Tell others about your deadlines: your spouse, significant other, and close friends.  You will find that by making it public you will have added motivation to hold yourself accountable.  Failing yourself is easy, but failing in front of others is not.
  3. Make it serious – In a culture, where deadlines are seen as optional, make a choice that the you will adhere to the deadline.  After all, it is a choice.  Make the decision and hold to it.  When others are going out and you have something due…don’t take the easy road.
  4. Take pride – When others do not care about timeliness, you will inevitably get flak for your stick-to-it-ness.  Take pride in knowing that you are getting the job done to your personal standards.
  5. Know you are being more productive – Take stock of the fact that you are making yourself more productive by completing things on time.  Projects left to the last minute take longer to complete.  No last minute craziness and disruption to your other work.

And if you still need some motivation to keep to your deadlines, just think…

“Whoa…what was that part about being shot???”

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.theklarichter.com/ Thekla Richter

    Great article!

    The biggest thing I do to meet deadlines is to set myself a personal deadline that’s earlier than the official one, as you suggest. That way, I leave enough buffer in case something goes wrong and it takes longer than I expect, plus you get that great feeling of being done early that you mention :)

    For large projects, it’s also important to break the project into smaller sub-projeects and set mini-deadlines for those throughout your timeline, with each stage being allotted more time than you think it needs. Again, this helps with pacing so that you have a chance to make course corrections if something starts to go wrong or take a lot longer than you thought.

    • Craig

      Agree with you! Nothing works better than holding yourself to an earlier deadline. And it feels great to finish early!

  • http://www.theklarichter.com Thekla Richter

    Great article!

    The biggest thing I do to meet deadlines is to set myself a personal deadline that’s earlier than the official one, as you suggest. That way, I leave enough buffer in case something goes wrong and it takes longer than I expect, plus you get that great feeling of being done early that you mention :)

    For large projects, it’s also important to break the project into smaller sub-projeects and set mini-deadlines for those throughout your timeline, with each stage being allotted more time than you think it needs. Again, this helps with pacing so that you have a chance to make course corrections if something starts to go wrong or take a lot longer than you thought.

    • Craig

      Agree with you! Nothing works better than holding yourself to an earlier deadline. And it feels great to finish early!

  • John Hawkins

    Great article, but you missed a key way to win against deadlines: Make it real! Teams get tired of busting their buns to meet artificial deadlines set from on high that have no relevance to the business and/or customer. It is demoralizing and creates ample incentive to ignore the next deadline (even if that one is justified). Justifications such as “that’s when the CEO wants it,” or “that’s the day before my vacation starts” are hard to use in motivating high-performance teams.

    Best when it is a deadline set by the team itself, with ample input from the customer/end-user.

    • Craig

      Love your point! Giving meaning to deadlines is very important.

      Thanks for adding!

  • John Hawkins

    Great article, but you missed a key way to win against deadlines: Make it real! Teams get tired of busting their buns to meet artificial deadlines set from on high that have no relevance to the business and/or customer. It is demoralizing and creates ample incentive to ignore the next deadline (even if that one is justified). Justifications such as “that’s when the CEO wants it,” or “that’s the day before my vacation starts” are hard to use in motivating high-performance teams.

    Best when it is a deadline set by the team itself, with ample input from the customer/end-user.

    • Craig

      Love your point! Giving meaning to deadlines is very important.

      Thanks for adding!

  • http://www.simplepclife.com/ Jovan

    “I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.”

    I agree with John, as a manager I’ve had to lead well educated teams of IT professionals that understood the deadlines we worked to meet were just BS from higher ups or because some “Top Producer” wished it so. This made them unhappy and didn’t make my life any easier. When the team as group decides on a deadline, it’s a whole new ball game.

    Great post Craig. I like the suggestions and will use them at me next meeting.

    Cheers!

  • http://www.simplepclife.com/ Jovan

    “I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.”

    I agree with John, as a manager I’ve had to lead well educated teams of IT professionals that understood the deadlines we worked to meet were just BS from higher ups or because some “Top Producer” wished it so. This made them unhappy and didn’t make my life any easier. When the team as group decides on a deadline, it’s a whole new ball game.

    Great post Craig. I like the suggestions and will use them at me next meeting.

    Cheers!