Career & Finance

5 Strategies to Stick to Your Self-Imposed Deadlines


Deadlines. Sometimes, they’re enough to fill you with dread. But, love them or hate them, one thing’s for sure: They’re incredibly motivating. There’s nothing quite like a pending due date breathing down your neck to inspire you to stay focused and get stuff done.

However, deadlines are never quite as daunting when we set them for ourselves, are they? Sure, when you know you run the risk of ruining a relationship with your boss, your co-workers, or a client, you’re more than willing to do whatever it takes to meet that expectation.

But, when you establish a personal deadline, it’s easy to become a little too lenient with yourself. You plan to accomplish that goal by the end of the week—which quickly turns into the end of next week, which then turns into next month.

Setting goals and end dates for yourself is important—and, so is sticking to them. So, it’s time you start taking your self-imposed deadlines a little more seriously. How? Use these five key strategies.

1. Establish Mini Milestones

We tend to be pretty ambitious with the goals we set for ourselves—the objectives we establish are pretty lofty. And, while that’s a good thing, it can also lead to you feeling pretty overwhelmed when it’s time to make some progress.

It’s helpful to break larger objectives into smaller, bite-sized milestones.

Whether you want to launch a business, start a blog, develop a marketing plan, or something totally different, it’s helpful to break those larger objectives into smaller, bite-sized milestones.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a book. Rather than telling yourself, “I want to have my whole book drafted by the first of the year,” you’re better off setting different deadlines for each chapter, a deadline for editing, and so on and so forth.

Breaking larger ambitions into these smaller milestones makes things feel much more manageable—making you that much more likely to actually get started and work toward that deadline.

2. Find an Accountability Partner

Just because you’re setting a deadline for yourself doesn’t mean you can’t bring anybody else into the mix. Sometimes we just need someone to hold us accountable.

If you struggle to hold up your own self-imposed rules and restrictions, it can be helpful to count on an accountability partner. Whether it’s your best friend, your mom, a colleague, or even your boss, loop someone else in on the deadline you’ve set for yourself. Then, ask that person to check in with you on your progress as that date approaches.

If personal accountability isn’t enough to motivate you, knowing that somebody else is in-the-know about what you should have done will give you a much needed boost.

3. Set Deadlines in Days

Here’s the unfortunate truth about deadlines: The scarier, the better. It’s typically those intimidating, time-pressing deadlines that we have the tendency to obey the most.

Well, as it turns out, studies show that setting your deadlines in days (rather than weeks or months) subconsciously instills a greater sense of urgency.

So, don’t tell yourself that you have three months to launch your website. Instead, outline your deadline in the frame of 90 days. You might be surprised at how large of an impact that small tweak can have on your motivation and your desire to get started.

4. Create a Sense of Urgency

In a similar vein, you want to ensure that you’re being ambitious enough with your self-imposed deadlines.

Don’t build such a lengthy timeframe that you have zero motivation to get things moving.

While you should leave yourself enough time to do a high-quality job with your goal, you don’t want to build such a lengthy timeframe that you have zero motivation to get things moving. After all, it’s all too easy to keep pushing things off when they seem so far away.

The mini milestones mentioned earlier can be helpful in this regard, as they give you the opportunity to break that larger project into more immediate tasks. But, the important thing to remember is this: Don’t give yourself way more time than you think you need—that’s typically what transforms your deadlines into mere suggestions.

5. Utilize Rewards and Consequences

Simply achieving or completing that goal isn’t always enough to motivate you. Sometimes you need a little something extra to light a fire under you to inspire you to keep pushing forward.

This is why implementing rewards or consequences can be effective in keeping you focused. Some people respond better to benefits, while others are more motivated by potential drawbacks. So, you’ll need to find what works best for you.

Perhaps you’ll treat yourself to a pedicure after you’ve completed three solid weeks of marathon training. Or, maybe you won’t allow yourself to attend that weekend winery tour with friends if you don’t launch your website before then.

Find what inspires you (whether it’s a positive or a negative), and then use that to keep yourself focused.

Setting deadlines for yourself is a great way to continue making progress on your personal and professional goals. But, unfortunately, we tend to take self-imposed deadlines less seriously than ones set by our bosses or clients.

It’s time you start respecting the things you want to accomplish. So, implement these five key tips and you’re sure to take your own deadlines more seriously.

What tips do you use to stick to your self-imposed deadlines?