Deadlines – Love Them Or Loathe Them?

by limebirdvanessa

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Douglas Adams

Actually I’m a stickler for deadlines, but only other people’s. I don’t seem to take myself seriously when I set them for myself. If somebody requires me to submit a piece of writing by a certain deadline, you will find me writing away into the small hours to get it done on time. If I set myself a deadline to complete a piece of writing, you will find me vacuuming, painting my nails, or trying out a new recipe.

A few months ago a magazine editor told me that she appreciated how I always submitted articles on time because she was forever having to chase up other writers who were late with their submissions. I was genuinely shocked, I couldn’t imagine writers missing a deadline when they had been commissioned to write an article (exceptional circumstances aside). I’m not trying to say that I am in any way better than those other writers, just that for me, meeting a deadline like that is a priority – I consider it a privilege if I am commissioned to write an article and I do everything I can to ensure that I meet what is required in every way, and that includes delivering on time.

I continually try to set deadlines for myself in order to make sure I move forward on my various writing projects. I tell myself in no uncertain terms that I must stick to my deadlines or there will be trouble. But I just don’t believe myself. I laugh in my face at these empty threats. It isn’t just with writing, this same situation replicates itself in all areas of my life. Anyway, to try and rectify this, I have decided to draw up a list of the reasons why I meet other people’s deadlines so that I can hopefully see if there is anything I can apply to my own deadline setting.

Let’s see now. I meet other people’s deadlines because…

1) I don’t like letting other people down.
2) I want people to think well of me.
3) I want to ensure that people won’t be put off asking me to do other things in the future.
4) I don’t want to get reprimanded.

Hmmm…it’s easy to see how those don’t automatically transfer to my own deadline setting. Let’s review each one:

1) I don’t like letting other people down – Well, I should care about letting myself down, but clearly I don’t care enough about that to change my attitude.
2) I want people to think well of me – I already know what I think about myself, and that probably isn’t dependent on whether or not I meet my own deadlines. Or is it?
3) I want to ensure that people won’t be put off asking me to do other things in the future – I don’t think I’m going to stop asking myself to do things.
4) I don’t want to get reprimanded – Well I do beat myself up a lot for not properly focusing on getting things done in a timely manner, but it is not having enough of an effect. Perhaps I need to punish myself more severely.

It all comes down to accountability. When we set deadlines for ourselves, we’re not accountable to anyone else. Particularly if we haven’t told anyone else about our self-imposed deadlines; nobody knows whether we meet them or not, and so we don’t have to explain ourselves. I know I’m not alone in this. I’m sure that’s why a lot of people publicly announce their goals, targets and deadlines on their blogs, and then regularly write about their progress. It makes them feel accountable to their public.

Does anyone have any tips for ensuring they stick to their own self-imposed deadlines?

47 Comments to “Deadlines – Love Them Or Loathe Them?”

  1. Fab post Vanessa. I HAVE to have deadlines. If someone says to me, “yeah just finish in whenever”, I’ll just sit there procrastinating and not get anything done. This means that if you want me to do anything, you need to give me a specific time and date you need it done, otherwise… it’s never coming. Haha!

  2. I agree – if you’re set a deadline then you should try to stick to it. Kind of feels unprofessional not to. Then again, I hate being late in general!

  3. I very rarely stick to my own self imposed deadlines 😦 I just wish I knew what the answer was lol


  4. Vanessa, how did you get inside my head and write down all my thoughts about deadlines? 😉 Spot on, great post. 🙂

    • Sometimes when I write posts, on here or on my own blog, I wonder whether I’m going to be alone in thinking or feeling a certain way, but with this one I was pretty sure plenty of others would feel the same way!

  5. I always met deadlines in my schoolwork and later life – I never turned in a term paper late, for example – but I always hated the pressure. For my writing, I never set deadlines. I understand how much I can do in a day and which parts of the day are suitable for me to do it, and when I reach a point where I’m not efficient any longer, I stop. Late in the day and in the evening, I get tired and become very uncreative. Whatever I write then will have to be done over anyway, so it’s best to stop. Can’t be forced. That’s one reason I like self-publishing – I don’t want people breathing down my neck and hounding me to produce.

    • It soudds like you have the skills to work efficiently without the need for deadlines, which is admirable! Personally, I do need the people breathing down my neck and hounding me. If you could put what you have in a bottle and sell it, you’d make a fortune 😉

      • Wish I had a magic answer! But you may recall that I’m a whole older than most of the Limebirds and I wrote for years without even thinking of publishing because – let’s face it – all that rejection is no fun! Writing was much more fun! However, being older doesn’t make me any wiser when it comes to either writing or publishing! I think each person has to work out over time what’s best for her or him.

  6. Are you sure you weren’t really writing this post about me? 😉 I’m very good at meeting deadlines required by others. For myself? No. And that is partially why I talk about my writing and progress on my blog.

    I don’t think I could do a full Nano, but I might try a mini one of my own—like finishing a first round of revisions within a week. That I might be able to do. I’m looking for a good week this summer to try it. Whether I succeed is another issue!

    • Yes, I definitely think that public announcements of your progress are helpful. I might have to start doing that. I’m not sure if I’ve looked at your blog before, I’ll go and check it out in a mo…

  7. Meeting my own deadlines is a new thing for me, and only seems to work in writing. I think it’s only working there because I’ve decided that nothing is more important to me, something that I’m not sure would work for other people. Also, I don’t know how long this will last, being a new thing in my life. Normally I’m the same way, Vanessa, fulfilling everyone else’s deadlines and requests long before I even think about my own. :p

  8. I love love love my deadlines. What works for me? Telling everybody I know exactly when and what the deadline is! Some of the best advice on finishing works was from a playwright who said, “I set very ridiculous, very public deadlines.”
    It has worked for me!

  9. Great post…I also have trouble sticking with self-imposed deadlines…I like Laura’s advice and would like to try it–but then what happens if I don’t meet the “out in the public” deadline? I’ll feel bad and will look bad in the eyes of other people…and that would be discouraging, too. Hmm…
    I am a life-long procrastinator so it is difficult to change, but I am going to try…tomorrow, for sure.

    • Yes, procrastinating is one of my big problems too. My first instinct with most things that come up is “I’ll do that later”. I aspire to be like my partner, because he always says “Let’s get this done now”.

  10. OMG. This post really hit home for me. I am absolutely on time for all freelance deadlines. I want to get more work in the future, so I make sure I’m dependable with turning in articles on time.

    For myself, I agree… I can be found making my kids’ lunches, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms or lingering at Target instead of getting a prescribed number of words written. It’s sad, really. I need to do better. I have big plans for this summer… I’ll try to be mean to myself and see if it helps. ; )

    • Sometimes I wonder if it’s because so much of life entails conforming to what other people need or want us to do that we end up thinking “Well how can I expect anyone else to give me a break if I don’t even give myself one?”. We just need to give ourselves less breaks though!

  11. Yes, I have never missed someone else’s deadline. I always miss my own. Perhaps I should announce my goals on my blog. I’ll have to think about it before I do anything rash. 😮

    • I’m going to start paying more attention now to other people’s announcements of their goals and deadlines on their blogs, particularly noting if they suddenly go a bit quiet when a deadline has passed, hehe.

  12. Other people’s deadlines work better for me, too. If I set my own deadline,I feel I have the authority–if not a reason–to change (or ignore) it. Unfortunately, my brain kicks in as deadlines near. No matter how early I begin, the best ideas appear when time is short. According to what I’ve read, that’s the way my brain is wired, and I have to learn to work with and around it. One thing about it–my “process” makes life exciting.

    • I’m the same, whenever I’m studying, it doesn’t matter how long they give us to turn in an essay, I will always leave it until the last minute to do because it’s only when the pressure is on that I can produce anything worth producing! Why are so many of us like this I wonder? Some kind of human survival instinct I guess, that when the pressure is on we have to really come up with the goods!

  13. I’m the same way. I am a “people-pleaser” so I never miss a deadline or not follow through on something I promised. But I am a “people” too so why don’t I try to meet my self-impossed deadlines?

  14. Spot on and absolutely hilarious!! Thanks for lending a bit of levity to the art of punctuality. ~ Ayanna Nahmias

  15. “If I set myself a deadline to complete a piece of writing, you will find me vacuuming, painting my nails, or trying out a new recipe . . . ”

    Well, nuts . . . you’ve told the world on me, Vanessa. 😦

    Lady, if you can figure out why writers do those crazy things in order to avoid facing their writing project, you will go down in history, I do believe.

    What I can tell you is that berating yourself won’t do a dang bit of good. Been there, done that. I just end up feeling worse.

    I have an encouragement stone in my desk drawer that says: “It’s a process.”

    And a process is always going to have its own steps, a few forward, sometimes a few backwards, but we do eventually get there because we know we do want to.

    Exceptionally honest and spot-on post today!

  16. Oh gosh I have to have a deadline or you can forget it. And I’m horrible with keeping up with deadlines that I set for myself, EVEN if I tell people publicly… I’m still bad at following through!

    • Oh dear, so the fear of public humiliation doesn’t work for you then Laura! I wonder if this failure to adhere to our own deadlines is a trait that is more prevalent amongst writers, or if it’s just human nature. I’m betting it’s human nature.

  17. I am the same way. I will loose sleep for days and crawl over fire to meet someone else’s deadline, but when it comes to my own goals. I am always letting myself off the hook. Oh, how to change that? I wish I knew. Keep plugging along.

  18. As someone who dealt with serious personal issues when self-employed and who melted down into dysfunction, I know how not honouring a commitment can be disastrous. It’s been almost a decade, and my life rebuilt. An important part of how I approach things is giving my full attention to the commitments I make. It matters.

    • Aww. sorry Nelle, just looking back over this post, I saw that I didn’t reply to your comment! Glad your life is rebuilt. We should really all give our full attention to the commitments we make to ourselves and not just those we make to others – I wish I could internalise that!

  19. I work well with deadlines, for myself or for other people. That’s just the way I am. I hate letting people down. And for myself, I simply know if it’s not done on time it won’t get done. That’s a waste of all the effort I put into it up to the point where I faltered.

    Also, since having kids, I recognize and respect the value of time and energy.

    I don’t like doing the same job twice, another reason to meet a deadline. Because let’s face it, if we miss it the first time around, we’re going to make another deadline for the same job. To me that’s doing the same job twice because you could instead be working towards a different deadline. If that makes sense, lol. Sounds good in my head, we’ll see how it plays out on the blog here.

    • It sounds like you really have it sorted there Kate! I guess getting up at 4am to write every day is a sacrifice and it really must help you to be disciplined and focused so as not to waste that precious time.

  20. Writing about deadlines and goals on my blog certainly keeps me moving. Sadly its the perception of others that keeps me moving because, just like you mentioned above, letting myself down does not seem as big a deal as letting down someone else.

  21. It became much easier to stick to my own deadlines after I became a magazine editor. Spending much of my workday putting together — and religiously following — a production schedule makes me more regimented in other areas of my life. That regimentation, thankfully, extends to my personal writing.

    Unfortunately, my job also forces me to chase down those delinquent writers. Gaa! I wish they could all be like you, Vanessa!

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