You live and work in a busy, fast-paced, demanding world that reminds you constantly that time is money, time is of the essence, time waits for no one and you have no time to waste. You have been told repeatedly by productivity and time management experts that one of the key ingredients in the recipe for your success is managing your time well by setting goals with realistic deadlines. As you take on more work and responsibilities and set more goals to achieve success in your life, career and business, are you still meeting all of your deadlines on time or are you finding that some of your deadlines have become different kinds of deadlines? Are your finding that more and more of your life, career and business deadlines have become less fixed and more flexible or forgotten?
If this is the case, before you commit to a deadline, you may want to clearly define the type of deadline that you are setting. Also, you may want to decide who owns the deadline. Is it yours alone to own and deliver on or are there others involved? How much control do you have over ensuring that this deadline is met on time? How immovable and important is this deadline? What are the consequences to your business if this deadline is not met – serious consequences like delayed delivery, disgruntled colleagues and disappointed clients/customers which may ultimately result in lost profits, revenues and clients/customers? What are the consequences to your career if this deadline is not met – serious consequences like decreased credibility, tarnished reputation and questionable leadership? What are the consequences to your life if this deadline is not met – serious consequences like less self-esteem and diminished self confidence, the loss of trust and respect of a family member or friend and the gain of fear and worry over your ability to meet other looming deadlines?
You want to decide on the kind of deadline that you are setting and treat your deadline with the time, energy, focus and respect that it deserves. If you have decided to set a fixed deadline, then let others know that this is the case and do everything within your power to not only meet the deadline but also deliver prior to the deadline. You will have either met or exceeded expectations and will be known as someone others can count on to deliver or count in to get things done when they need to get them done in a hurry. If you have decided to set a flexible deadline then let others know that this is the case so that they can adjust their expectations accordingly. Even though you may not think it is necessary, you must remember to keep them updated regularly on the status of the deadline and assure them that you are continuing to make progress toward the deadline at a pace that is slow and steady rather than fast and furious. Allowing the deadline to keep moving further into the future or forgetting the deadline entirely are not options that you should consider if you want others to see you as reliable, responsive and respectful.
As the old year ends and the new year begins and as the flexible holiday season into the fixed deadline-filled winter, take a moment before you set and commit to a deadline to ask yourself: What kind of deadline am I setting: a fixed deadline, a flexible deadline, a deadline that is a starting line, a deadline that is a finish line, a deadline that is a bottom line or a deadline that is a line in the sand?