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The Unexplored Value of a Deadline

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The Unexplored Value of a Deadline

Imagine a life without any deadlines.

How relaxing would that be? No looming credit card payments. No stressful all-nighters to finish that project at work or school. No procrastination, even! Without a deadline, no one cares if you don’t get to it. You’ll always have the time later on.

It feels so great to not have that stressful moment, right around the corner. When a deadline goes away, a huge weight lifts off my shoulders. In high school, my teachers occasionally gave us extensions on our due dates and everyone responded with a huge sigh of relief.

But imagine, for a moment, what life would be like if an average person had no deadlines for their entire life.

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A Life Without Deadlines

An average person lives for 79 years. The first 1-2 years of anyone’s life is spent as a baby, so let’s make the conscious years of an average person as 77.

An average person has 77 years = 28,105 days = 674,520 hours.

Let’s assume that around half of that time is spent sleeping, eating, and for general hygiene. We’re now left with 337,260 hours where you could really work toward something.

Let’s say you’re thirty. In that case, about 122,640 of those working hours have already gone by.

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I’m not trying to be morbid by pointing out these numbers. But think about this. If this hypothetical, average person have probably wasted most of those 122,640 hours doing nothing, not knowing the pressure of deadlines.

Maybe this scenario isn’t so hypothetical.

A Dream With No Deadline

I have a close friend from college who loves cooking. He has a talent for it, and he’s wanted to have his own restaurant ever since he was just a little kid.

I first heard about his dream of opening his own restaurant when we were both in our early twenties. It surprised me at first because he was so practical. He was headed into the finance world and had part-time jobs to support himself. But when we were just hanging out, he’d constantly talk about his real dream: the kinds of dishes he’d make, the details of the restaurant design, and the uniforms for the staff. He had such a clear vision of what he wanted.

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A few years out of college I met him again. I told him how I’d just built my own website and that I was working on improving the site content. And then I asked him how he was doing with the restaurant business.

That was when he really surprised me. He told me he was still dreaming about it, but had been really busy with work. He had demanding customers, who gave him no time to think about what he truly wanted.

We parted ways then, and I didn’t seen him for quite a few years. Last month, I ran into him again and asked, again, how he was doing. He said that he’d taken a different job, one that’s even tougher than the last one. Again, he’s put his restaurant dream on hold.

I told him, “I really want to try out your restaurant soon.” And I meant it. I know that he has the talent to open a truly exceptional restaurant.

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Why Deadlines Matter to You

My friend allowed his dream to remain just a dream. He never put the pressure on himself to turn that dream into reality. Deadlines have the power to clarify your priorities. They force you to look clearly at what you want, and how to make it happen.

I’ve always set personal deadlines because I want to make sure that what I want, happens. By setting deadlines for yourself, you know what you should or shouldn’t do at any particular moment in order to reach your goals.

How to Embrace Deadlines Positively

Setting deadlines can be applied to different kinds of projects. If you want to get a new car, don’t just think about saving more, make a deadline for yourself with some clear goals — “I will save $10,000 in 5 months.” Then, set out to make a to-do list for what to do in those 5 months:

  • Save 20% of salary each month for the new car.
  • Bring own lunch to work instead of eating out.
  • Find and buy the cheapest gas.
  • Pay for all transactions with cash only — so it feels like all the transactions are really tangible, unlike just swiping a credit card.

At the same time, there are things to avoid during those months, and so there should be a “distraction list” for things that would take away from the car-savings goal:

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  • No new video games.
  • No new clothes.
  • Avoid going out with friends and spending too much money on food and drink.

Set a deadline for everything you care about. Then list out what you have to do (and what you shouldn’t do!) within a period of time. And you’ll achieve what you want, every time.

What’s the thing you’ve always wanted to do? Set a deadline to get it now.

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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