Deadlines: The Siren Call

By: Laura L. Reeves, CCP

Founder & CEO of Common Sense Practice, LLC 

I love deadlines! They make me tingle in anticipation! Ok, for real now—I dread deadlines as much as the next gal but only in certain circumstances. 

Let’s examine that.  If someone arbitrarily sets a due date for you without your input, how do you feel?  Put upon? Frustrated? Unappreciated? All of the above? 

And that’s very understandable. Whenever we as individuals have no say in an event or task for which we have undeniable responsibility, it raises our hackles.  And hackle-raising is not the best activity for a leader or manager to engage in. So how do you incorporate your team into the deadline setting business?  Here we go…. 

First, ask yourself why?  Particularly if you are an entrepreneur or independent business owner, why is this task or project important, nay critical to your success?  Will it land the big whale (that deep-pocketed customer)? Will it expand your market scope?  Will it take your product or service to the next level of quality or excellence?  If you cannot answer yes to any of these questions, dump the deadline. 

Second, do you have control over the deadline?  In some instances, such as media publication dates, project deadlines, etc. there is no option but to work backwards from that preset date.  For this situation reality has to be the framework used to set a deadline.  Remove all extraneous clutter and focus on the absolutely essential, mission critical tasks that must be accomplished.  Poof! Set your deadlines from there. 

If you can set the deadline without external influences ask yourself these questions.  What can I reasonably accomplish during specific timeframes?  What can you produce within a day, a week, a month?  Once that question is settled, your focus must be on winnowing out unnecessary tasks or commitments that could negatively impact your productivity.  Be realistic.  Do not force a deadline into your work schedule that is not as important as another project that you are more passionate about or you perceive as more fun.  Counter-intuitive?  I don’t think so. Successful completion of a deadline-oriented task inspires you to tackle the next task or project with much more enthusiasm. 

Third, decide. That’s right, you choose.  Make a decision based on what is most important for you.  Is it blatant business success?  Does it fit with your purpose in business or life?  Does it feel right?  Yes, we need to be clear-headed, common sense business professionals when making such decisions.  But here’s the thing---decisions are ultimately made somewhere between the head and the heart.  Our minds gather information, our hearts sort out the meaning. Staying true to your purpose, whatever that may be, will make any decision more palatable and practically hackle-raising free. 

Ask why, determine who has control, and choose.  Then you too will hear the siren call of the deadline and sail happily into success!