I promised a follow up to my previous article about how deadlines work for me.
The truth is that they work well for me. Having deadlines helps me focus and get jobs done. If I do not have a deadline, my ideas/projects/whatever just linger out there in the nebulous land of “I will get to that.” As time goes on, the list of “I will get to that” grows. When I have deadlines, I accomplish.
I also like challenges. Deadlines give me that. In November, 2011, I participated in NaNoWriMo. This stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is a contest where people write 50,000 words toward a work of prose during the calendar month of November. Believe me, cranking out that many words, in addition to fulfilling your daily responsibilities is a challenge! The challenge heightened my focus, and I got it done. It was exciting, rising to the challenge. I am sure that, without the deadline, I would not have just written 50K words in that month.
I do have problems with deadlines. The problem is simply that I do not hit all of them. This causes me no small amount of frustration. I almost always hit the deadlines with my clients. My company is considered to be extremely reliable because of years and years of this. My problem comes in with the personal deadlines I set for what I feel is important to accomplish.
Why do I struggle in this area?
My wife has made the observation–one that I am a little hesitant to admit, but one that I think is true never-the-less–that I make sure I look good to those on the outside of me (my clients, my bosses, my teachers, etc.) while I am not so diligent when dealing with myself or my family. I don’t want to embarrass myself with others, so I break my neck to get it done. The embarrassment for personal deadlines not being met is more internal and private. I do not like public failure of any kind.
Another reason I struggle is that I overestimate what I can do. I have times of intense focus (like writing for NaNoWriMo) where I get an unbelievable amount done in a short period of time. I then come to believe that this should be the norm. Other times, I am not so focused or driven. Honestly, that level of focus is only possible for bursts. My problem is that I feel that I should be able to duplicate it consistently and at will.
Also, I tend to not properly account for problems and interruptions. These come up and seriously throw me off my game. I am always putting out fires. I am actually pretty good at it, and everyone around me knows I am good at it. This is a good skill to have, but it can have a way of pushing deadline achievement to the back-burner.
Some problems are not a result of emergencies I can fix and are not affected by my choice. The weekend after Thanksgiving, I came down with the flu and walking pneumonia at the same time. This slowed me down severely for the entire month of December. The frustration (one of several) with this was that I had organizational goals I wanted to hit for MrKleanze (my business) by the end of the year, and my reduced ability to perform made hitting these impossible. This was most disturbing, but out of my control. I fatigued easily, and had work for clients that had to be done. Once I had done that work, I was finished for the day, period. There was no waking up extra early to get things done. I was constantly exhausted, and that was all there was to it.
So, what do I do with the deadlines I do not achieve.
1. I realize that by pursuing them, I am further down the road than I would be if I hadn’t.
2. I accept that I did not hit my deadlines, re-evaluate where I am, and figure new deadlines that will work.
3. I get back on the horse and work on it until it is done.
I think the trick is learning what works for you and then doing it. Deadlines are a part of life and business. Hitting them can be the difference between success, mediocrity, or abject failure. Giving up because I don’t hit all of them guarantees abject failure. Carrying on gives me a chance at success. I very much want to be in that success category, and I am sure you do to.