Last week I wrote about deadlines, and why I think you should love them. No, luuuurve them. Really, you should.
But what happens when you are self employed? Or starting a business? Or trying something new? The deadlines tend to be self imposed. Oh oh. Harder. Much harder.
It’s simple. If there are no deadlines out there. You need to make some up. Yes. Make. Some. Up.
Here’s how I think about it.
Deadlines are promises.
Really, a deadline is just a promise made between two parties. And let’s face it: a promise is a promise, even if it is a promise to yourself.
Every week, I make myself a bunch of promises to ensure I have some deadlines in place beyond what others set for me. (If you are wondering why I love deadlines so much, read this.) Some of those promises are to me. Some are to others. Here are a couple of regulars:
- I promise I will start all my weekly columns the week before they are due. Yes, the week before, so on the odd occasion life gets in the way, the balls don’t drop. (Never failed on this one yet.)
- I promise myself (and you!) I will blog twice a week. (Mostly, this works. There was a small slip up two weeks ago, but don’t worry, back on the horse again. Have to say, the comments, emails, suggestions about how the blog posts are helping you, or could help you, are great at helping me meet this deadline. So thank YOU for helping me with this self-imposed promise!)
These two are a good representation of a cold hard reality. Despite my best intentions, the deadlines I set for myself (#2) don’t get treated with the same seriousness as deadlines set by editors, bosses or clients (#1).
To get around this, one of the tricks I’ve learned over years being self employed is to promise stuff to other people on a deadline. Try it. Promise a few important people in your career – bosses, editors, clients – you’ll have something done by a certain date. Promise them, and you probably will do it. (Well I suggest you should, if you want to look professional.)
Promise yourself you’ll have something done, and the result doesn’t always look the same. That’s a good one to work on. I know I am. Now, when I don’t post I think: “Hmm, but remember how all those people told you they really look forward to your posts?” It helps me get motivated. It helps me post to a deadline. If I had no-one out there asking me if I’d posted, perhaps I’d buddy up with someone and promise that person I’d do it.
The key with deadlines is to make yourself accountable, to someone, somewhere. It really helps those promises get met.
No-one sets out to break a promise to themselves, however, in reality, I’ve found my work-related promises are far easier to meet than my ‘personal’ promises.
In fact – deadlines tend to get prioritised like this:
- Work-related deadlines impacting other people get first priority.
- Work-related deadlines impacting me (ie: all the ‘nice to haves’) come second.
- Personal promises – deadlines – that would keep me healthy, fit, happy, stumble along in third place.
I know life is in balance when the three priorities healthily compete. When the hierarchy is as obvious as I’ve outlined above, things need some work.
At the moment, I’m working on bumping number three – those personal promises – up the list a little. Here are some recent examples I’m testing, so that I treat promises I make to myself with the same reverence I treat those I make to others.
- I promise myself to exercise in some shape or form, most days. (Typing does not count as exercise. All four limbs must be moving. Typing while tapping my feet does not count.)
- I promise not to order chicken satay sticks from the local Thai restaurant so often that the waitress knows my order before I open my mouth. (This is proving difficult: it’s because home made peanut sauce is soooo good.)
- I promise not to work on weekends unless there’s an event scheduled or I’m travelling, when schedules are topsy turvy. (This one’s surprisingly easy. It just takes reminding other people.)
For the comments section, how about you? Which deadlines are easiest to meet? Which promises are hardest to keep?