Setting deadlines and following through to complete them is an art that you can learn with practice and patience. Common mistakes happen and sometimes it’s more about trial and error. As you continue on your track of success, professionally and personally, consider these common mistakes when it comes to setting deadlines. Fixing these common mistakes is not hard to do, but it’ll make a big difference in meeting your deadlines.

1. Not writing down the deadline.

It is important to write down your deadlines on a calendar or somewhere that you can see on a daily basis. It’s not a big secret that what we don’t see, we oftentimes forget. If you have a lot of deadlines, a large calendar would work well for you. Simply write down the deadline on the day it is due and be sure that you review your calendar each day.

2. Failing to research the options.

If you have a deadline, be sure to research all of your options before finalizing that deadline. For example, if you have to have a big presentation at the office, be sure that you do your research ahead of time before you tell your boss when you’ll be ready to make the presentation. You might initially think it will take you a week, but if you research the topic, you might find out that it will take you closer to two weeks to be completely prepared.

3. Falling prey to lack of motivation.

Let’s say you have a project due in six months, so you put it out of your mind until the week before it’s due. Oftentimes this procrastination is due to lack of motivation to complete the project. Sure, some projects are just not that fun, but to be able to finish the project well before it is due is quite a success. Perhaps you could offer yourself a reward for working on the project consistently or when you finish the project.

4. Setting unrealistic deadlines.

Motivation is great, but if you set deadlines that are unrealistic, you’re bound to stress yourself out a good bit.  If you have plenty of time to complete a task, there’s no need to rush it. For example, if you have to learn new techniques for one aspect of your job, give yourself ample time instead of feeling pressured to rush and have them mastered in a week.  Rushing is not the way to accomplish any task successfully.

5. Having too many deadlines.

You’re efficient, but you’re not superman or superwoman.  If you’re stressed out beyond your max, perhaps you’ve got too many deadlines set.  If this is the case, take a look at each one and either choose a different deadline for it or see if you can delegate it elsewhere.  We live in a society that puts a lot of pressure on people to perform and achieve.  It’s not feasible to be an overachiever, as it is just far too stressful.  Keep your goals balanced and create feasible deadlines for them.

6. Setting deadlines too far into the future.

If you’re deadline is three years down the road, you might not really find the motivation to work consistently on meeting that deadline. For example, let’s say you want a degree in a few years. Break that deadline down into semesters. When you break down your deadlines into smaller chunks, you will feel more motivated to work toward those consistently.

7. Lack of steps toward the deadline.

Take your project and chunk it into steps and then mark each deadline until the final project is done.  For example, let’s say you want to learn Spanish so you can be bilingual for your job.  Break that into steps, like one month to learn nouns, verbs, etc., one month to learn the grammar rules, and two months to practice Spanish via Skype lessons from a tutor.  Tacking projects in bite size pieces is much more feasible and keeps your momentum going.

8. Setting a deadline when you really just need patience.

Ever try to lose 20 pounds in a month and then get frustrated when it didn’t happen? This is because you set a deadline on something that really just needs patience and some consistency. Weight loss can occur, but you’re not always in control of how much and when. It’s better to focus on being consistent with eating healthy and exercising, and let the weight loss occur naturally, rather than stressing yourself out with a specific weight loss deadline.

9. Not taking every detail into consideration.

It is important to take some time to contemplate what you want to accomplish within your deadline.  Sure, it may sound great at first, but if you take a day or two to really think about your deadline and take everything into consideration, you might be surprised at what you realize. You may have forgotten something important if you just rushed into setting that deadline. Take a few days to not only do your research, but contemplate everything involved.

10. Mimicking others

If you set the same deadlines that others set, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Don’t fall prey to the pressure to mimic others. If your coworker met his deadline in three months, that doesn’t mean that you have to do the same. If your best friend landed his dream job in one year, that does not have to be your deadline. Do what works for you. Be confident that you can and will set deadlines individual to you and go for it!

Setting deadlines is very important in life. Without them we tend to procrastinate and get lazy.  Keeping that in mind, understand that setting deadlines and hitting them with the least stress possible requires a bit of knowledge and knowing what to avoid. Take these tips into consideration as you go about setting and knocking out your deadlines.

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