This article is something I have really been trying to live and something that I will continue to live. I have goals, and ambitions and there are a lot things I want to accomplish… But it’s all too easy to put things off.
You see, if you tell yourself that “it doesn’t matter” when something gets done, the likelihood is that it will never get done.
You know this is true, we’ve all done it.
But deadlines mean that at some point you are actually going to have to do some work.
For many in school this means waiting till the last minute and then pulling a panicked all-nighter. But in the “real-world” – when it is for something you love – a nice firm deadline helps give you that little extra kick each day to get things done.
I think I first truly appreciated this when I was saving money for my gap-year travels. Dave (my best friend and travel partner) and I were languishing in the planning stages – we had compiled a list of about 17 different countries to visit in about as many weeks.
Obviously that wasn’t going to work.
But until we actually walked in to a travel agents and stabbed at a relatively arbitrary date on the calendar, our plans could go little further. With an outbound and return date however we could far more effectively organise ourselves.
Not only that it gave us a very precise amount of time in which to earn enough money to ensure our survival in strange countries.
(Well, at least we hoped it would ensure we didn’t starve)
The impact on our lifestyles of having a deadline was significant; an extra beer on a night out here was suddenly the equivalent to a night’s stay in a guest house in Thailand.
Everything became weighed against the deadline and in probably 95% of cases we acted accordingly – in a way that would benefit our travels.
Now I have finished university and face different kinds of deadlines – mainly self-imposed but no less important. I also have to ask myself some pretty scary questions – questions that I might like to avoid most of the time.
(Luckily I can rely on my friends to prompt me on the difficult ones!).
This is why I like to remind myself of the benefits of setting deadlines: you can work harder, play harder and stay true to yourself the whole time.
If you define “working harder” as getting more done in less time, then by definition, having a deadline will increase your productivity compared to no deadline at all.
But - the omnipresent hedge – there are good deadlines and bad deadlines. The bad variety will cause undue stress, sleepless nights and defeatism.
Yeah, that sucks.
The good variety will increase motivation and productivity and you’ll feel better about yourself too. I talk more about what I consider to be good and bad kinds of deadlines in my free eBook – How To Be Good At Everything – which will be released on Monday to all subscribers.
When you have a suitable deadline in place you can actually make a workable schedule. One beautiful benefit of this which most people seem to overlook is that it allows you to really go after your free time.
You can say with certainty “I am available then” and spend the evening relaxing with your friends guilt free.
You did what you needed to earlier in the day, and now you get to play. And believe me that not only does all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, but it also makes him overworked, under-exercised and, well, it’s not exactly a fulfilling way of breathing on this rock.
To really ensure you make the most of this time, you must practice being present in the moment. There will be more of my take on this in How To Be Good At Everything, but The Art Of Manliness website has already done tremendous justice to the subject of being fully present (the article is aimed at men, but really anyone can learn from it).
Be True To Yourself
The final – potentially most important and rewarding – result of setting deadlines is the ability to stay true to yourself and maintain integrity. Deadlines enable you to actually complete things that are important to you.
Sticking to them and getting shit done prevents those “what if” questions which can plague otherwise healthy minds.
It means that you can follow pursuits of passion more effectively instead of being stuck spending too much time on things which don’t fulfil your needs and which don’t reflect who you are and who you want to be.
So what do you think? Do you like the structure that deadlines provide or do you prefer a more relaxed approach?