The importance of deadlines

It has just occurred to me that there can be plenty of things you want to do throughout life (you might want to start a business, join a band, learn a language for example), and yet it’s very easy for life to pass you by without those things happening.

I saw a post on Humans of New York in which a woman expressed how much she wanted to start a business. She knew how it was going to work and held meetings with her friend and business partner twice a week. Twice a week turned into once a week, then once a fortnight and now it’s been a long time since they conciled. She blamed work pressure. And that’s totally understandable, but it does make you question why some tasks just get done and others remain distant dreams, mountainous in stature.

I was part of a group scrapbooking project recently in which we filled out our pages then couriered the book to the next person in the chain. It was meant as a gift for our friend but we missed the deadline. We decided to still give it to her but at a later date, however we never set a new deadline and it was forgotten for eight months.

A woman I used to work with had been asked to provide a document but she was given no deadline. Other priorities always took its place until 12 months had gone by. Eventually she resigned so she had to complete it before she left. She did it within a week.

These examples just kind of melded in my head as I was ruminating (good word that) on the train to Edinburgh (more about that in my next travel blog!). I realised with our busy schedules it’s a good idea to keep reassessing how we prioritise our time, especially when many of us are natural procrastinators.

If we know there will always be time to do a particular task or project, will we ever be able to do it?

If you were never given any deadlines for your uni assignments, would you still be completing your degree?

If you’re casually starting a project with friends and you have to accommodate their own commitments, how on earth do you get things done one step at a time?

I believe the answer is in deadlines.

Set them for your colleagues, set them for your friends, set them for your hobby group, but most importantly, set them for yourself.

They’re definite, they keep you on track, they keep members of groups on the same page and they’re very satisfying once they’re met.

It’s a way to marry your dreams with reality.

I think the key is also to keep them short. Instead of saying by this time next year I want to have written a book, and then putting off starting the thing, we could say by Sunday night I will have brainstormed five plot lines for my book.

Isn’t that second task soooo much easier?

Then you just set aside 20 mins to complete your task (and you never know you might sit there a few hours buzzing with ideas after you’ve started, but there’s also no pressure if you don’t). Then on Sunday night you give your task a big tick! Done! Easy!

And then you make up another small task. By the following Sunday I will choose one of the plot lines and start brainstorming characters for it, for example.

Now I have no idea how one goes about writing a book, so the above advice might have literary scholars churning in their seats. Then again there may be no rules at all. I’m sure it’s the latter. My point is we should set tiny tasks often. Life is all about moderation, of course, so maybe don’t set daily tasks because I’ve found (and you might have too) that it’s very easy to skip a day or five and then we’re not getting anywhere.

So my advice to you (and to myself, as all these blogs are), is to enjoy the lofty thoughts; to keep dreaming; but once you’ve taken hold of an idea – give it a deadline. Hell, book in a meeting with someone for a few weeks time if you need some small accountability to get it done. Then break it up into easy tasks with short deadlines.

I would love to know if you decide to try it and how you get on! I’ll be taking the same advice to get a move on with sorting a new band in London.

It’s not new advice at all. In fact I heard a seminar about the idea of ‘moving fast’ in which a motivational speaker said you should set a short deadline to get something done before the idea grows into a huge hurdle in your mind.

That’s how I got to play solo gigs last year. Playing a solo show was one of the scariest ideas I’ve had! Argh. But I wanted to try it. At some point in my life.

Which could be anytime.

Which could easily be never.

So I took this speaker’s advice (possibly the first time anyone has from a motivational speaker! Too harsh?) and booked a gig at The Dogs Bollix before the idea became even more mountainous.

All it took was a single email!

I secured the venue four months ahead of time, before I even had a set list, because I knew working towards that deadline was the only way I could work towards this goal and get it done.

I played three shows last year and they were fun. It was nice to play my songs in front of other people for a change!

The best thing I realised is that I didn’t feel an amazing sense of accomplishment at the end. Instead, I just thought ‘Oh that wasn’t so bad’.

And then I realised I miss playing in a band!

If you never chase the things you yearn to do, you can never realise it might not be what you were looking for after all…

Right, better look out the window at the countryside.

Green fields! And few more, and then a few more after that.

Basically lots of green fields on the journey to Scotland.

See you at the next thought pondering day!

Love
Holly

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