The four types of deadlines – here it is how they work for or against us

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Mañana, mañana… Everyone, even the worst of workaholics, is sometimes perfectly capable of procrastinating. Today we would like to talk about how to overcome this on the way to our objectives. We will also explore how deadlines relate to this phenomenon.

The challenge

We see it come up all the time.

It’s the one issue that most of us have to overcome while working towards any of our big dreams.

And what is it that we get in when we leave things for later?

First, we set a goal, i.e. a project or the simplest of tasks, but then we fail to start working on it. What we do is postponing not the goal itself but its implementation. Therefore, the above issue can simply be resolved with the concept of a deadline.

The good part

Consciously or not, each of us sets something of a cut-off. Even if the words we tell ourselves are something like “I have to do this today” the idea is pretty clear.

And that works perfectly well for us.

Because we may not consciously focus on the task in question, but the fact that we have registered it in our mind gives focus to our subconscious.  It will keep going in that direction till the job is finished.

The closer we get to the end, the more often the warning light starts flashing on. So, we end up eventually rolling up our sleeves and get it done.

In that manner, without much effort, we manage somehow to do what’s needed and thus meet the deadline.

Our “GoalBuddy” system addresses the problem with an important rule.

The quick review

It is very simple and does not take more than 30 seconds. It goes as follows:

“Open your notes each morning and take a look at your tasks for the week.

This new habit will serve you well. Your mind will look for openings in your schedule during the day for what you have already identified as the top priority.

The four types

If there were no schedule for a task probably it won’t be ever completed. Well, it’s a good thing we can rely on them. And they come in four major versions.

This classification is based on the source and the aftermath.

# 1 Deadlines that are imposed on us

They have two main characteristics:

  • Usually, these are determined and set up by other people, institutions, rules, etc.
  • Failure to comply with them has well regulated and known consequences.

The greater the negative impact of failure the likelier it is that we will make it.

Let’s go through some examples.

Deadlines set up by law

Everybody knows that renewing the driver’s license or filing your tax return is to be sent on time.

These are of the mandatory type. They apply to everyone and we all make sure to get them completed within the given time. It may be the very last minute but we have to. Otherwise, there will be fines plus the extra time and effort to correct the situation.

Other institutional deadlines

Let’s look at some other institutions like a university. Perhaps everyone can easily relate to this college experience when you had many weeks to get ready for the midterm. And yet you get to study only a few days before it.

Some scientific research of the stress in students shows that the pressure increases while the exam date gets closer. And that means staying late cramming in the final days.

Deadlines as a rule

These, though not like the institutional ones, still motivate us as much. Let’s say that (we know it’s not easy to imagine it this year) you are about to go on a long-awaited trip.

Everything is set and ready – we finished packing, everybody is excited about the trip holding the plane tickets. But can you imagine you are late for your flight? Hardly, right!

Still, sometimes it might very well happen. We’ve all heard the last call for a late passenger before the gate is closed and the flight departs. In general, we try not to miss this type of deadline since the alternative is quite unacceptable to us.

So far it is clear that when we have a deadline imposed from the outside, regardless if we feel like it or not, we all try to do what’s required of us.

# 2 Our deadlines, with a commitment to other people

The big problem is that we have so much time to work on our grand dreams that it is much easier to slow down a bit by putting off some of the required steps forward.

When we set goals we expect ourselves to be responsible and act according to plan. And yet, there is something else that can help – to feel accountable to someone else besides the commitment to ourselves. The effect of sharing our ideas and intentions with another person is such that it plays out as if it is a binding contract between two parties.

Commitment to another person

This is the cornerstone of the “GoalBuddy” system. The concept is simple – by revealing our intentions to someone else we respect and feel close to we are much more likely to succeed in our efforts. As much as this person invests emotionally in our endeavors the more we feel obliged to meet their expectations.

The one proven solution

It works out beautifully – together with the Buddy, we hold weekly meetings.

First, each week you set a couple of easy steps. And then, on Sunday night, with your Buddy you do a review of the progress and then plan for the next week.

The things are put in motion and the result is guaranteed as well as a constant rate of advancement.

# 3: Our deadlines, but without commitment to another person

This is the most problematic type since the consequences are not so obvious and yet they may stay with us for a long time and have a lasting negative effect.

Most people do the following. They set their goals and projects and give themselves a certain amount of time to wrap things up. But then…

“Better late than never”… Or is it so?

One possibility is to never finish on time because… you never started on time. The systemic delay is what will plague you every day. As a result, your self-respect and confidence would take a sizable hit.

When life itself intervenes

The other possibility is when something unexpected happens, an emergency, or something else with higher priority sucks in all of our time and energy.

It is also especially tricky to do a realistic assessment of what transpired. We begin to view ourselves as unreliable and incapable of sticking to the plan. That’s how limiting beliefs take root and start sabotaging any of our future endeavors.

A downward spiral

It is quite likely that this pattern of behavior will go on again and again becoming a constant source of regret and disappointment.

It’s only normal that people could get excited by something new. However, they end up not doing anything different regardless of how big the initial motivational energy might be. Every act of procrastination, small or big, is a failure of sorts. And when these start piling up we will inevitably begin feeling down. We will be hit by the painful realization that we are not as organized as we wished. In the end, anxiety and self-doubt settle in for the long run preventing us from registering any meaningful progress.

The psychological consequences

These are not as clear-cut since we all are different and our levels of self-consciousness vary a lot. Some do better, some others don’t.

But in the end, there is no upside whatsoever when things don’t get done. Except, that we might have seriously undermined ourselves

A system that’s of great help

Sometimes we think that it might be better not to set goals at all rather do it without a support system.

“GoalBuddy” provides us with four keys that will allow us to work with perseverance and focus, generating confidence along the way. It is much easier when big and seemingly unattainable dreams are implemented step-wise in much shorter time frames – weekly action and quarterly goals. We can go forward with readjusting along the way. In doing so we achieve a lot in terms of not only results but also how we feel about the journey itself.

# 4 No deadline at all

Although it may seem like the worst option, these “indefinites” are not as bad as the previous type.

They have this unique characteristic to be without an “expiration date”. They remain in the realm of daydreaming and no action is taken, or at least not regularly.

It is just as simple as that – no deadline means there is not much action either.

Every efficiency guru will advise you to put a task in your calendar and then begin spending something like half an hour on it every day. This will give you a good structure for your efforts.

And what about those people who go on without deadlines whatsoever? Are they lucky or what? In our opinion, that’s hardly the case.  They just let themselves coast on and comply only with the first two types of deadlines. They just go on in life without bothering too much with any goal-setting.

And to wrap things up

Deadlines are of great importance for fighting off procrastination. If you are a “repeating offender” in that respect then, perhaps, you should rethink how you view deadlines! Are they an incentive for you to spring to action, or just a source of stress and frustration?

In our opinion, it’s all a matter of balance. Regardless of the urgency, you get from the marked dates on your calendar it is still something that’s rewarding in the end. It’s a reminder and a driving force that we badly need to get things done.

And if we employ a systematic approach to act with perseverance and support from our Goal Buddy, we will enjoy a life with less stress but still fulfilling our dreams with ease, and not just for a day or two but every single day.


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