Why Deadlines are a Good Thing

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 20, 2009 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Freelancing, Time Management Strategies

As you can imagine, I work with a lot of deadlines. It seems like my whole life is deadlines! In my personal life there are deadlines for bills and appointments. That’s not that different than anyone else. In my professional life, though, I think I should win some kind of award for the number of deadlines I encounter every day: I’ve got deadlines for the various projects I work on for other clients; I have deadlines for professionals and consultants who work for me. Some days, my work seems to be equal parts adding value and managing deadlines (and, I would argue that managing deadlines for my clients is a form of adding value!).

I remember back in college and the deadlines that we had there. There would be a paper assigned and a deadline given and the studious people would get to work right away and the rest of the class would wait until the night before to do the work. Regardless of which camp a student fell into, that deadline was THE date. Only a few would be daring enough to hand their papers in late (with or without an excuse).

We need deadlines. Without a deadline, we simply don’t do the work. A good non-work example would be my optometrist and my dentist. When I’m at my dentist for an annual check-up, they set the appointment for the next visit when I leave. Then they send me reminders periodically and I show up at my allotted time when the next appointment (deadline) comes around. My optometrist, on the other hand, doesn’t set an appointment when I finish. Instead, the receptionist sends me postcards with reminders that “your time for a check-up is here; you should think about scheduling.” Well, the reminders are helpful but guess what I don’t do…

In business, deadlines help us stay on track. We may not like them but we need them. That restriction keeps us focused, motivated, and creative.

Christoph Niemann is a talented graphic artist who was interviewed by the99percent.com. In his interview, Short Deadlines Make You Think Straight,  he talked about deadlines and productivity.

Among other things, Niemann talks about the value of short deadlines to keep him on track. I like his thinking. When I’m working on a project, I like to have the main deadline – the final deadline – but I also create several milestone deadlines along the way. This way, I can monitor how the project is progressing and can solve delays while they happen (instead of discovering them when it’s too late).

And you don’t have to be a project manager or productivity consultant to excel with deadlines. Entrepreneurs and freelancers everywhere should set big and interim deadlines to keep them on track. If you have bigger projects, break them up into smaller outcomes and focus on each outcome as an individual deadline. (Hint: This also makes delegation easier, too!).

There’s more value in Niemann’s interview, too, especially on the subjects of freelancing, project turnaround, scheduling, and creativity. If you run your own business, be sure to read his article and embrace his thinking on these.

Good luck!

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