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Resource Center » How to Set Deadlines and Keep Them

Though generally despised and feared, deadlines can be beneficial to your productivity and work ethic. That massive project you have coming up isn’t going to complete itself, which is why a realistic deadline may be just what you need to get more work done! If you are too easy on yourself then you may dish out too many extensions, but if you are too hard on yourself then you may become discouraged and give up anyway. No one ever said that goal-setting and deadline implementation was fun (or simple), but someone has to do it…and that someone is you! How do you set deadlines and goals and actually stick to them? Read on a bit to find out.


Break Down Your Deadline into Manageable Chunks
If the current date is January 1st and your big task must be completed by March 1st, then which of these scenarios do you think would be more productive over time:  1) Keep the final due date in mind by writing it on your desk calendar, but not making it a regular priority, or 2) Write the due date on your desk calendar and then, working backwards, split your deadline into controllable sections?

The first scenario may be just fine for those with exceptional self control, but it can be dangerous for everyone else! Writing down the ultimate due date is important; however, without regular work (whether weekly, daily, or otherwise) it raises potential for procrastination. The second scenario serves as a much more logical and safe starting point. Don’t you think it would be less daunting to have one small task due at the end of each week for 8 weeks instead of one overwhelming task due at the end of 2 months? Use your notebook paper, wall calendar, or your word processing program to break down your project and set multiple mini-deadlines. You won’t be sorry you did! If you decide to do mini-deadlines, then don’t forget to work around any other events in your life that may coincide each week.


Be Realistic
It’s one thing to present yourself with a challenge, but it’s quite another to set yourself up for complete and utter failure. You could set out to lose 25 pounds in a week or to get your novel published within six months, but be honest—is that possible? And even if it were possible, what are the chances that you’ll burn out in the process? Don’t cause unnecessary stress to your mind (or to your body) just because you want to see quicker results.

Always set realistic, attainable goals and avoid pushing yourself harder than you can handle; otherwise, you might get even more discouraged and cancel out any progress you may have already made. Sure, it looks good on paper to complete the addition to your house by the end of the month, but don’t be too hard on yourself if that’s impossible. You definitely won’t finish your task when you’re frustrated and disheartened!


Fact Check, Fact Check, Fact Check!
It would be truly awful to set goals and work toward your deadline only to discover, halfway through your allotted time, that you’ve been doing something wrong or that you’ve been pursuing a dead end. Verify desired end results with your boss, triple-check your facts, and thoroughly conduct the necessary research before tackling a project or an assignment.  Research and fact-checking is particularly useful before setting a deadline with a customer because it will give you a better idea of a reasonable time frame—especially if the project regards an unfamiliar topic or a gray area.

Pillows Utilize a Buffer Zone
Just because your deadline is set in stone for a particular day doesn’t mean you can’t trick yourself a bit. If your annual shareholder meeting is November 4th and you’re in charge of creating and distributing all of the financial statements and materials, then pretend that it has to be completed a week earlier than that. If you have out-of-town guests coming to visit and you need to have your pool ready by June 27th, then have it ready to use by June 25th. A cushion of even a few days can provide you with some extra time to perfect your work and add finishing touches, and then you’ll get to relax before the pressure sets in on the big day!

Fireworks Praise Yourself When You Do Well
Keep track of what you’ve accomplished and give yourself a pat on the back after every goal you achieve. Did you successfully complete your first step to your long-term deadline? Good for you! Did you stumble across information or resources that you were able to use to improve your project? Super! Reward yourself for all of your jobs well done (but never lose sight of your final deadline) and you’ll be pumped to finally finish what you set out to do. Don’t lay on the praise too thickly, though, or else you could become distracted from your initial goals

Article By Jill Tooley
Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. In addition to managing the QLP blog, Jill also manages the content development team, assists with the company’s social media accounts, and writes like a fiend whenever given the chance. You can connect with Jill on Google+.

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