The Magic of Deadlines

Mark ReaganMotivation, Performance, Stress Management0 Comments

how to use deadlines

For the past few weeks, I’ve been rather… lazy.

Sure, I’ve still been getting out a weekly blog post and keeping up on my other work, but I haven’t been putting much into my public speaking.

This isn’t good when I have a competition coming up to prepare for in May, a 30 minute speech to work on to pitch to service clubs and other groups that need speakers, and more.

What happened in March that I fell off the wagon for my speaking?

An easy excuse would be to say “I didn’t have the time,” or “life happened.” Sometimes that’s true, but not for this. Here, I really just dropped the ball.

But I did learn something good about my own motivation.

The last time I gave a speech was the first week of March. My next scheduled time to talk? Late April.

I had a nearly two month break between talks. How much pressure was I feeling?


Why Deadlines Matter

Were you one of those people in college who stayed up all night writing the paper due the next day?

For some reason, you just couldn’t muster the motivation to work on it any earlier. If someone suggested it to you, you probably said something like, “I do better under pressure.”

You’re right. You do.

The stress that comes with pressure helps you perform better.

But that stress can also help motivate you to shift into high gear and get working.

My deadline was 7 weeks off. I had plenty of time! There was no pressure, and no work got done. A deadline can be the perfect thing to kick our ass and get us working.

Two days ago I was asked to fill in and give a short speech for… tonight.

What do you think happened to my motivation level?


I immediately got to work on a topic and started working.  

What If I Don’t Have a Deadline?

You may not have a deadline. This past month, I didn’t. If I had noticed earlier, I could’ve done one simple thing:

Given myself a deadline.

We’re used to deadlines set by others: Bosses, teachers, the bank or landlord to pay the mortgage/rent…

Our whole lives, others set deadlines for us.

Instead, if we want to use that pressure, we can give ourselves a deadline.

I could’ve given myself a deadline of March 20th (or whatever) to have that 30 minute presentation wrapped up.

I could’ve put it on Google calendar and set up notifications to work on it. I could’ve told my accountability partner my self-imposed deadline and had him keep me accountable to it.

There’s lots of things we can do to help stick to a deadline.

You might be saying, “But there’s no consequence if I miss my own deadline.”

You’re right. You might be able to weasel out of it.

If you did that at work, it could cost you a promotion, or depending on how important the project is, your job.

If you don’t pay your bills on time, your phone or internet can be shut off (gasp!), or you could lose your house.

With that in mind, there’s nothing stopping you from giving yourself a punishment if you miss your deadline.

Ever get grounded as a kid?

If you miss your deadline, maybe you give up TV, chocolate, or Facebook until you’re caught up.

If you do that, though, definitely make sure to build in a reward for completing it on time.

Why You Should Always Reward Yourself

We rarely reward ourselves when we should. But our brains love being rewarded.

I was in a mastermind group call yesterday with some other coaches. One of them was telling us about an upcoming talk she had, and how much it stressed her out.

She dreaded giving these talks, but they’re an important part of her career.

I asked her, “After you give these talks, how do you reward yourself?”

There was a moment of silence (which when you’re coaching someone, silence after you ask a question usually means you just asked a great question, because the other person has to shift their thinking. Either that, or you’ve just asked the single worst question in the world, and you’ve confused the client. Thankfully, it was the first one!)

She didn’t reward herself for doing these talks, and created a negative loop.

Stressful talk -> no reward -> dreading next talk -> give next talk -> no reward, and so on.

We might not enjoy doing something, but if we give ourselves a reward for doing it, it can make it a lot easier to swallow, and can keep up our motivation.

She decided to treat herself to a massage for doing the talk.

How do you reward yourself?

The Danger of Deadlines

There is one thing I should mention with deadlines and procrastinating up to them.

If you have multiple deadlines looming and you procrastinate on all of them, you’re setting yourself up for full-on overwhelm.

Hold off on too many projects, and suddenly you have a ton of things that have to get done coming down on you all at once.

You went from “not enough stress” to “way too much stress.” It can sneak up on you easily, so be careful.

What’s great about setting your own deadlines is you can space them out and stay in the sweet spot for your stress level.

Everyone’s sweet spot is going to be different.

How much stress do you need to stay motivated?

If you don’t know, find out.

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