Deadlines work. They drive us to prioritize and complete tasks, getting them behind us, moving us forward, and preparing us for whatever is next. Have you heard this one? “A goal without a deadline is a wish.” It’s true!
Here’s a simple example from my experience over the last few weeks. I had committed to writing a letter for use in a mailing by a non-profit. There was no firm deadline, just “late August, early September, whenever…” It would have been better is the deadline was “5:00 PM on Friday, August 30.”
So what happened? The letter writing project kept slipping until I sat at a meeting on a recent Tuesday night. I was asked, “When will the letter be done?” I said, “You will have it by 9:00 AM Thursday morning.”
I delivered it Wednesday evening. Why? I set a deadline (publicly) and met it. By the way, the work took all of about 45 minutes. I should have done it in early August so I wouldn’t have had to think about it further.
Here is something that you can try this week, or today. By 10 AM. Let me know if it works.
For everything on your to-do list, set a deadline. If you can’t get it done this week, think about how you can break down a big task into smaller chunks, with some of it achievable in the short term. Then, stick to the deadline.
If you are like me, you will get to the end of the day with many check marks on your list, along with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment. This can work in your job search, too. Here are some things to do with deadlines attached:
- Make phone calls to three people who can help you in your career search. Do it by 3 PM.
- Contact one person before noon who can help you with a letter of recommendation.
- Apply to two targeted positions by 1 PM.
- Find one person in your LinkedIn contacts for whom you can write a recommendation. Do it by 10 AM.
Write it down, set your deadline, and check it off when done. By 5 you will have a list of accomplishments rather than a list of wishes.
For more on goal setting and personal accountability, see “Maybe it is You“.