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Jan 4, 2007

Honoring Your Schedule (How to Meet Deadlines Faster)

On a coaching call today I got the question, “How do I make sure I meet deadlines faster and more consistently when I seem to get bogged down in the individual tasks of my projects?” The answer is a simple one, but it requires building some new disciplines. Fortunately, you’re not afraid to do what it takes to get to your goals faster, so here’s a summary of my answer:

Honor Thyself

A lot of our stress and procrastination comes from the fact we often break agreements with ourselves. We say that we’re going to do all of these things, but then things get “in the way,” or we lose motivation, or we flat out don’t give it all we’ve got. And that does nothing to help your productivity.

To pull yourself out of that slump, you’ve got to start respecting and valuing your time more so you can honor more of those commitments to yourself.

Respect = Follow Through

Think about this: If you make a commitment to someone – say you tell them you’ll meet with them Tuesday at 5 – you tend to follow through. You do this because you want to show the you respect them (It would be rude not to show for your appointment). But every commitment you make to yourself is basically an appointment with yourself – but we don’t tend to think twice about breaking those.

Well, it’s time to start thinking twice. if you’re facing discipline issues, when you build your schedule you need to treat each task like appointments with different people. In other words:

  • When you show up to an appointment, give your full attention to the person (task), and when the time comes, you say goodbye to the first person (task) and move on to the next one.
  • If you haven’t finished up with the first person (task), you immediately set another appointment to continue later.

Again, this makes sense when dealing with people (you wouldn’t just keep hanging out with the first person and ignore meeting with the second one). But the shift here is thinking this way about your tasks.

Which Would Motivate You More?

People may balk at this at first, because it seems to go against the idea of “flow” – getting into a groove of high productivity and not stopping to do anything else ’till you’re done. But that’s the advanced stage of productivity, that’s not what we’re talking about here.

This is how to begin rescuing yourself when you go from day to day not getting into flow much at all.

Imagine this situation: You have four tasks to complete today, each of which you estimate will take you two hours. Seems easy enough. You start in on task #1 and realize after an hour that the task is going to take a lot longer than you thought – either because you underestimated the task, or you’re honestly not giving it your complete focus (be honest if this is the case).

Now, what if you tell yourself, “I’ll stick with task one till I get it done …” and after a full workday you’re still on it. Now you’ve totally skipped out on making progress on tasks two through four and you likely look at your day as a failure, because you’re behind. How motivated do you think you’d be to work hard on the other tasks?

But what if …

But what if you handled it differently – if you said to yourself up front, “Listen, here’s the deal. You have two hours to work on each of these tasks. Whatever you don’t get done you have to stay late and do, so you’d better give 200% while you’re working in each time block.” Don’t you think you’d be more motivated? You know you would.

You’ve already experienced this before. Think back to the time when you left your term paper to the last day and “suddenly” found the ability to focus and execute like mad to get the job done. And you stayed late ’till it was all finished.

Or think of a time your boss came in an said, “I need this by the end of the day,” and throws you an eight hour task when you’ve only got four. But you still managed to get it done because you got insanely focused on meeting that commitment.

When you do that to yourself – when you say, “Hey, if you don’t get this done now, you’re staying late,” you open yourself up to a higher level of focus. You’re guaranteed to get more done than if you just gave it “your best shot.”

The Double Bonus

And here’s the great part. Even if you underestimated all your tasks, and the end of the day you have four tasks that are only halfway finished (which will happen a lot), you’ve accomplished two things.

First, you’ve honored your commitment, so you feel good about yourself. That in itself goes a long way to building your motivation and creating the “procrastination antibodies” that will help you in the future.

Second, you’ve made across the board progress, so your motivation levels get boosted again. In the first scenario, you were behind in three tasks and (maybe) done with one. In the second scenario, you’re approaching the finish line on everything – so you’re much more likely to schedule the time to finish the and really follow through on it.

So Give It A Shot

Now it’s time to put he rubber to the road. Give this a shot for the next few days and witness what it does to your productivity. It may feel uncomfortable switching gears and “staying late” if you have to, but that’s a good thing.

Being uncomfortable means you’re moving away from your comfortable habit and into something greater.

So give it a shot today. You’ll thank yourself for it.

21 Responses to “Honoring Your Schedule (How to Meet Deadlines Faster)”

  • Jun 21, 2010 Dawn Martinello

    I love the analogy of meeting your tasks like you would an appointment with a person.

    Having your weekly calendar next to you broken down into half hour time zones will definitely help you to create the follow-up appointment with the task.

    Paradigm shifts can be monumental.

  • Jun 21, 2010 Meredith

    This is such a good thing to do and *so* hard to do when you are not good at estimating time for tasks (like me). Today, I am going to try adding some padding in the schedule and just moving on to the next thing no matter what. Crossing my fingers that it works.
    Meredith´s last blog ..Can you really make $10K a month from your cell phone? My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Jess Webb

    Wow, great perspective on this! I love it! I’m definitely going to give it a try. :) Thanks for the Monday morning kick in the ass! ;)
    Jess Webb´s last blog ..3 Local Online Marketing Strategies to get More Customers to Your Business My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Jackie Lee

    I really like the concepts in this post Dave. I appreciate the idea of honoring my commitments to myself ~ it’s key.

    I never thought about stopping in the middle of the task ~ even if I wasn’t finished, but it makes complete sense and I can see how I would be motivated the next day to continue since I actually got SOMETHING done on each project.

    In my all or nothing brain my new motto has been “Something is always better than nothing” and I’ve been striving to do something instead of getting bogged down in getting EVERYTHING done. :) Thanks for the kick in the pants this morning!
    Jackie Lee´s last blog ..Get People On the Bus Using Social Media My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 LaShae

    This is a wonderful idea of honoring your schedule and thus your time – the finitest of finite resources.

    It’s also something I’ll be putting into better practice starting now.

  • Jun 21, 2010 Joseph Rooks

    Love it, Dave. This came at just the right time for me.

  • Jun 21, 2010 Carol Logan Newbill

    A great reminder as I was sitting here staring at my Monday morning “I Doan WANNA” list. Thanks, Dave. Off to keep some appointments.
    Carol Logan Newbill´s last blog ..Protecting your business assets – who owns your domain name? My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Mark Keating

    Dave:

    Thanks for the new perspective! I put myself into this situation all the time.

    Mark

  • Jun 21, 2010 Marlene Hielema

    When you put it like this, it makes perfect sense!

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

    Implementation time!
    Marlene Hielema´s last blog ..Photographers! Are you using Twitter yet? My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Mary K Weinhagen

    What a helpful post! As a self-employed entrepreneur I already hold a meeting with my staff “me” on Monday mornings to map out the week. On Friday we meet again to see if I still have a ‘job’ the next week – ;-)

    That has helped me with some accountability but this fine-tunes things and is very scalable. I’m inspired to get out my minute timer and plan to move on to the next task when I hear that *ding*!

    Thanks so much!!!
    Mary K Weinhagen´s last blog ..Let’s Teach Honesty! My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Teri

    Dave:
    Perfect timing for this post! I’m trying to get 100 things done, and find I make progress on nuthin’! I love the idea of treating my tasks like people—what a fantastic perspective and can’t wait to see what I can produce for myself!
    Thanks for the info.

  • Jun 21, 2010 Robert Theurer

    Nice reminder and broken down to great ideas to help scedule our lives. thank u!

  • Jun 21, 2010 Single Mom Rich Mom

    When I was working like a crazy person (two jobs for the most part) trying to accumulate enough cash to retire, I always kept in mind the fact that above all, I had a commitment to be there for my kids.

    That commitment meant that I had to push myself to find creative ways to utilize the employees that I managed in optimal ways as well as available technology. I also learned to focus and get as much done in the same time as two or three other people would because the option of just working more wasn’t there. And for the most part, I was compensated for results, not face time.

    It’s still my motto today no matter what I’m doing – get in, get done, go home. There’s no time for pissing around when you have goals to achieve.
    Single Mom Rich Mom´s last blog ..Charging adult kids rent – to do or not to do? My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Mary E. Ulrich

    You’re right about making a commitment to yourself and ignoring all the woulda, shoulda, coulda and “What if?” (Dang if I know how to punctuate that.)

  • Jun 21, 2010 Jeff Navarro

    Nice…I’m going to start this idea today. This post made me realize how much it sucks to feel like I haven’t kept a commitment to myself. Thanks!
    Jeff Navarro´s last blog ..Fashion Photographer Kenneth Willardt, on Fear My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Ren Atkins

    Thanks for the reminder – I constantly forget how easy this should be.

    I’m a chronic multitasker, which means I sometimes have eleventy-million just-started tasks at the end of a day, rather than one completed task I can actually tick off the list.

    I find it helpful to set an alarm (there are lots of free annoying online alarms available) to mark the end of the time I devote to a set task. This helps me feel like I’m ‘on the clock’ and also gives me the mental freedom to walk away for a coffee when the time’s up.
    Ren Atkins´s last blog ..How to get your audience on the sales slippery slide My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Hugh

    I also love the idea of making appointments with ourselves.

    I agree completely with the idea that beginning a task gives you motivation. Often, we procrastinate because a task seems too daunting. But when we finally dive into it, we realize it’s not so bad afterall and we don’t know why we procrastinated. Just get started.
    Hugh´s last blog ..How to be a Force of Nature: A Review of Laird Hamilton’s Book My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Neil Pinnock

    Definitely a good tip for people who are fiercely determined to get things done.

    Procrastination is one of my biggest enemies, so this was a good read.
    Neil Pinnock´s last blog ..How To Stop Telling Your Sad, Sad Story My ComLuv Profile

  • Jun 21, 2010 Broderick

    That’s it. I’m signing up for your Monday morning kick in the ass. Thanks for putting it all in perspective and setting terms I can’t ignore.

  • Jun 22, 2010 Nan

    You got me going today, and it helped a great deal. But as i worked, i realized that I haven’t been realistic in how much time it will take to be done before my deadline, so the deadline will change. Fortunately it can. But now it’s easier to figure out how to do all these tasks. Now I know how to think about scheduling things.

  • Jun 24, 2010 Theresa

    Is an hour on a project pretty much optimal time for everyone? I have tried this in 15 minute increments, and still end up with a bunch of worked-on-but-not-complete projects. At this moment I have a list of 12 projects that should have been done literally ages ago. I keep plugging away at them, 5-15 minutes at a time, but nothing gets finished.

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