This sounds drastic, but the origin of the word deadline is related to this headline. According to Lossing’s History of the Civil War (1868): “Seventeen feet from the inner stockade was the ‘dead-line’, over which no man could pass and live.” (Source: Random House)This referred to the line around a military prison beyond which soldiers were authorized to shoot escaping prisoners. Not a nice thought but it gives the word deadline a bit more severity than it has nowadays.
We are used to move deadlines, extend them, argue over them or simply ignore them. But does that actually help with the day-to-day running of our affairs? Not really. Moving a deadline simply means that you still have to do the work, you just eat into the time of when you were already meant to do something else. You will not get the gratification of feeling proud of yourself for finishing on time. You will not get the praise of others that you are reliable and trustworthy. You are letting yourself and others down by asking for yet another extension. You have to spend more time picking up from where you left of and you have no idea what the time landscape will look like around the new deadline, it might even be more hectic!
So what can you do? How about seeing the deadline as exactly that – cross it and you’re in trouble. Stick to it.
Here are 3 strategies to do exactly that, and in the process become proud of yourself for being reliable and a real team player.
- Set yourself partial deadlines along the way with the final deadline due before the actual deadline. Let’s say the project is due in 4 weeks time. Set yourself weekly deadlines for what you will have achieved by the end of each week and set the final deadline 2 days before the 4 weeks are up. You then have a couple of days to make sure all the I’s are dotted and the Ts are crossed and you can deliver an amazing project on time.
- If you are the one setting yourself a deadline, make sure it’s realistic. Take into consideration how long each step of the project is really going to take, build in a buffer for things going wrong and don’t forget to add time for travelling, delivery periods and other extras that are out of your control. With a realistic deadline you are less likely to move it and will start to respect it. And if you don’t need the buffer for things going wrong, you will even be able to finish early, giving you extra gratification.
- Decide to adhere to deadlines and make it a new habit. Just like being on time, eating healthy and working out, it is often simply a matter of will power and determination whether you stick to your deadlines. And if you keep in mind what happened to those poor prisoners who overstepped their dead-line in the olden days, you might just stay on track from now on.
Bonus Tip: Post the deadline in a visible place to remind you that you haven’t got all day and to keep procrastination at bay.