The rat race is full of scrambling, rushing, and stress. Whether you‘re in high school or halfway through your 20s to age 30, you’ve probably felt this pinch a time or two. Why the hurry? Why can‘t you just work when you feel like working, not on a schedule? Truthfully, having deadlines (whether self-directed or not) help to keep us on track and productive. Trying to wing it rarely works; we’ll explain why.
Deadlines put everything into perspective, and that‘s crucial to achieving your goals. It helps you to stay focused and directed without going off on a tangent that eats up all of your time, but it also ensures you “fit in” with others and society as a whole. From group projects or even just personal goals (like getting fit), setting deadlines for yourself can help you maintain motivation and pave a smooth road toward success.
Missing Your Deadlines Spells Doom for Your Future; Here’s Why!
Deadlines Define the Value of Time
Time is the single-most valuable resource you have. Sure, as humans, we can’t exactly control the flow of time, but we can control how we use the time we have. Everyone has a million things to do all the time, and that means it‘s easy to forget things and just ignore things until it‘s too late. By scheduling, you put your life in a neat little ordered list your brain is much happier to focus on (stress be damned).
But here‘s the other thing; people often view projects they’re involved in with differing amounts of importance and priority, especially when compared to personal goals. If your goal is dependent on what someone else does or provides (like landing your dream job), creating a deadline sets the standard for everyone involved. Each party will know how to perceive its importance based on the time needed to complete it.
This theory comes from the corporate world, but it does apply to individuals, too. It’s natural to feel a lack of drive and incentivization towards a goal with no expectation on when it should get done. Failing to define the value of your time disempowers you from being able to properly prioritize everything you do — and that leads to too many wasted hours on Netflix versus personal growth.
Consistency is Essential
Another value to deadlines is they set expectations, which encourages consistency. In the corporate world, setting expectations tells team members how they should spend their time and what to expect from their teammates. You can relate this to yourself by thinking of YOU as your own best teammate. By setting (and meeting) expectations for your goals, you become more consistent and better able to achieve what you need to achieve over time.
What makes that so special? Employers and clients prefer someone who is average over someone that’s only amazing once in a while. Too much inconsistency in your performance can cost you the spot on a team and future work opportunities. It also has impacts on your personal life, where your ability to be consistent and follow through can influence personal relationships and friendships, too.
Having Something to Do Matters
If there‘s no urgency to complete a goal, there‘s no reason to bother trying. This leads to a negative feedback loop where you become ambivalent about even changing your life or evolving as a person. Stagnation is a real and verifiable risk, especially when you‘re already stuck in a bad situation to begin with. There is a real chance that if you don’t have anything to focus on, you may just give up on trying.
And that’s exactly why some of us land on the couch for the 145th weekend in a row to watch another six seasons of “Friends.” Which is great, and fun, except, you know, there’s only so many times you can watch before you‘re bored. It also won’t help you find a loving partner, land your dream job, or become a fantastic artist. All of that hinges on your ability to set goals and meet deadlines (and yes, stay motivated, too).
You don’t need to set a goal of becoming a doctor to make this work for you. In fact, even starting with a goal to go for a walk every single day can be helpful! Heck, if all else fails, make your deadline having a shower and just getting a bit of screen-free time. Baby steps!
Keeping Your Goals Manageable
One deadline isn’t the end-all-be-all of a project. nor should you schedule a single deadline at any given time. When you do that, it puts you under an immense amount of pressure, and that’s more likely to cause you to falter or fail. Your goals and deadlines are more similar to milestones you pass by during your travels. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to fixate on the final destination without being overwhelmed by the entire journey. Likewise, a project that only emphasizes the end goal is doomed to fail.
Instead, keep your deadlines small and easy to achieve. By doing this, you prevent burnout and improve morale. If you happen to fail to meet a deadline, it‘s not a total failure because you‘ve segmented your goals into easily-digestible pieces. It’s also much easier to manage how you spend your time meeting those goals.
“Setting deadlines” isn’t just corporate jargon designed to force people into taking action. Giving yourself a real milestone to focus on increases productivity and group solidarity. Deadlines are an essential part of any productive mindset and help you manage your time. So make your own deadlines and meet them before your peers leave you behind in the dust.