Deadlines don’t usually carry the best connotations, as we tend to link them to stress, anxiety, and fear. Through life’s obligations, like school and work, deadlines have ominously loomed over us like dark clouds of authority. They patronize us, almost even threatening us, to meet their set time mandates or else face the consequences. Digging even deeper, the word “deadline” originated during the 19th century to describe the horrible conditions of civil war prisons. Imagine being thrown in jail for failing to turn in a report on time.
We dread deadlines for various reasons: we have insufficient time to complete the task, we lack clear direction, we already have a plate full of other priorities, etc. At its core, we just hate being told what to do. Deadlines are usually imposed on us and if you’re anything like me, you hate being ordered to do something. You’re even more like me if you procrastinate until the 11th hour before actually getting to work.
A couple of years ago, I realized that I created most of my stress, as the way I reacted in challenging situations led to my anxiety. More often than not, you blame others or make excuses when things don’t go your way, but doing so only makes you feel helpless. You freak yourself out when you feel like you have no control of your life. A good example of altered perspective is with deadlines. Maybe if I approached a request as a challenge versus an offense, I wouldn’t feel so much angst. Maybe if I didn’t wait until the last minute, I wouldn’t be scrambling. When I flip the narrative, I’m the one in control.
Looking through the smoke, deadlines are meant to maintain organization and progress. If we imposed them on our own personal lives, imagine how much better we’ll be at overcoming tough scenarios.
- If you’ve been questioning the compatibility between you and your significant other for a year, establish a deadline to decide if the relationship is actually worth staying in.
- If you feel stuck in an unsatisfying job, set a deadline for things to see if things get better or it’s time to move onto something new.
- If you’ve been working on a blog piece (like this one) for 3 weeks trying to get the “right” words on the page, pick a deadline to publish it or just scrap it.
Self imposed deadlines motivate you to make decisions that can push you towards your personal and professional goals, and ultimately lead you to happier situations. However, they’re worthless if you don’t hold yourself accountable. We tend to take self-imposed deadlines less seriously than ones set by our bosses, which present the risk of them falling apart. If you’re going to be mature enough to take control of your life, be mature enough to pursue your goals:
1. Set checkpoints and milestones. Big choices or actions don’t happen overnight.
2. Find someone to keep you in check and accountable.
3. Make the deadline visible on your calendar, phone, fridge, or wherever you’ll be reminded.
4. Have rewards and consequences. Treat yourself if you meet the deadline and punish yourself if you don’t.
At the end of the day, don’t let deadlines stress you out. Rather use them to your advantage to better your self and your surroundings. Life is too short to stay in situations that don’t benefit you. Make those tough decisions with confidence and enjoy having control.