Yes, I know, deadlines can be a pain. Deadlines can induce anxiety, especially when you are not likely to meet them.

But deadlines are in essence an essential part of goal-setting and critical to goal-achieving.

As part of the acronym SMART- the T is for timely. Putting a time-stamp to delivery is what makes us devise schedules and look forward to outcomes with anticipation. It is a motivating factor to keep us going.

I have said deadlines, can be lifelines, mainly because, where an achievement is critical to success, it creates a sense of urgency, it forces effective and efficient procedures to be devised.

It turns a goal into a plan with an achievable date.

It is because of the effort required in setting deadlines, that people lazily decide on a date with no basis and live in hope that they can meet it.

You will also hear well-meaning bosses instruct employees by saying “I want it done yesterday”, thereby inducing anxiety, and creating a sense of failure even before the task has started.

The setting of deadlines however is an art and skill that needs to be thought through.

Many settle for arbitrary deadlines, a ‘finger in the air approach’, without looking at hard facts.

The key points to remember about setting deadlines is:

  1. The starting point for setting a feasible deadline, is to decide earlier in the goal or objective setting process that there is going to be one.
  2. If achieving a goal is truly important, then allocate time to researching what the most effective timelines and deadlines for a project/deliverables should be based on. Consider:
  • Feasibility,
  • Resource availability,
  • Accessibility
  • Competing commitments
  • Controllable and uncontrollable factors, and the impact this could have on delivery timelines.

3. Except where absolutely critical, consider building flex into your schedule and timelines.

4. Assign responsibility for reviewing timelines and deliverables.

5. Consider the use of structured tools for arriving at dates and timelines e.g. project management tools or something as simple as spreadsheets with workflows and dates.

6. Make sure all involved understand and agree on what it entails to achieve the deadlines and its feasiblity. This may not always get to an amicable agreement; therefore, leadership skills need to be applied for effective final decisions.

Just a few thoughts to consider. The main thing is, whatever you do, take time out to devise and agree deadlines, and ensure ongoing communication amongst stakeholders.

If having done all, deadlines are still not met, take time to understand why and how to ensure success going forward.

A deadline is only a lifeline when it is based on hard facts and able to facilitate focus and efficient use of time and resources.

#goal-setting #goal-getting #leadership #strategy #project-management